Visitors On Board

What’s it like to live aboard?

Well, you could always visit a friend with a boat, but it’s not as simple as turning up, there are things to learn BEFORE stepping on board!

Rules for Staying on Our Boat

We briefed visitors with a short email or telephone conversation before they arrived.  But many boat owners take it a step further and provide everyone staying on board with a detailed document.

Make your cruising dreams a reality
Stunning sunsets are part of cruising – but it’s not everything!

On Turning Your Cruising Dreams Into Reality Facebook Group, the question was prompted and samples offered by way of the following cruising tip:

Before visitors arrive, give them as much information as possible about the boat and how you live. Here are some examples that might surprise visitors:

Doing the dishes in cold water.

Lack of freezer or fridge (or both).

Lack of washing machine onboard.

No continuous power.

Simple entertainment.

Not the most salubrious restaurants every night.

Holding tanks and toilet training.

Water rationing, no lengthy hot showers or leaving the tap running when cleaning teeth.

Lack of closet space.

Small beds.

This has prompted a fabulous conversation between many boaters on their ‘visitors from hell’ experiences. Plus oodles of fabulous advice. Click here to read.

Two boaties have shared their ‘visitors’ document and have given me permission to share them here. Thank you Carole Erdman-Grant and Monica Moriyasu.

Carole is a life-long sailor and barge-farer on the European canals. She is the founder of Women on Barges Facebook group. (She is also selling her fabulous barge – take a look here).

Monica has had many boating adventures and she manages a stunning rental property in southern France  You can find some beautiful artwork by Monica here too.

I love these ladies – they are strong women and with beautiful characters, read their ‘prepare guests lists’ with this thought in mind: many of these rules have been created from previous experience… it’ll make you smile…

From Carole:

Preparing Our Guests for a few days aboard our 111 year old Tjalk.

We live and journey on our 19.9 Mt x 4.3 Mt Dutch Tjalk, the SilkPurse (because she was such a pig when we found her!) fully fitted with all the conveniences we like in life.

Barge for sale
barge for sale

How do we prepare our guests for what they are about to experience? It’s harder than you think. It may all sound good over the phone but living on a barge is something you really can’t understand until you have actually done it.

Here are just a few things to keep in mind before planning a visit:

Clothing – We are in Europe. It can be HOT or cold or in between, depending on the season you come. For the ladies, bring a bathing suit, (you never know when you might want a dip in the lake or canal or river) cover-ups, sun dresses, tank tops and shorts if in the summer, but dress for the season, maybe a light zip-up or jacket for the evenings if you tend to get chilly. For the men, be sure to bring your swim trunks and t-shirts. Also smart casual is great for dinners out. In the spring and especially in the summer it rarely gets colder than 24 °C unless there is a cool spell! Oh, and bring enough smalls (undies) for your entire trip. You may not get a chance to do laundry!

Dirty Laundry – Some places we visit have a Laundromat nearby if you really need one but here it’s not uncommon to wear the same clothes more than once. Do you REALLY want to spend your holiday in a laundromat? We do have a washer onboard and are happy to use it too. Same goes for beach towels and bath towels. We hang them up to dry and reuse them again the next day.

Shoes – Our barge is 20 Mts long with comfortably wide side decks but with some deck fittings that protrude into the walkways so flip-flops leave your toes exposed to possible damage. A pair of runners or other comfortable outdoor shoes with good soles are a must. Just like you might remove your shoes before entering your home, we leave our shoes in the wheelhouse. This prevents sand, black scuffs and dirt from getting all over the inside the barge. We do everything we can to keep the outside out. Something like 80% of the contaminates in the world are on our shoes so if we remove them before we come in we leave this unwanted stuff outside. Please help keep the dirt outside.

PJ’s – Bring light and comfortable clothing to sleep in.

Bedding – We supply our guests with pillows and sheets, feather duvets, wool blankets, but also synthetic pillows and duvets. Please let us know if you have an allergy to feathers and we will remove them from your stateroom. Please remember this is not a hotel and although you might get tea or coffee in bed in the mornings if the tea fairy is available but there won’t be much else in the way of room service. You get your own queen size bed. In fact, you will all be comfortable, no camping here. Our sofa makes into a double bed as well and the single daybed in the wheelhouse is also a possibility if you like to sleep almost under the stars. You can hear the birds and have the early morning sunrise awaken you, delightful!!

The Head (bathroom) is compact but complete. We have pressurized hot and cold running water. In our guest stateroom there is a Lavac toilet, a shower and a sink. We will explain its idiosyncrasies when you arrive.

Baggage – Leave your hard baggage at home. Seriously. Not only do we want you to leave your stress behind, we want you to come with soft luggage! Please do not bring any suitcases or bags that have frames in them. Whether you check your luggage or just bring a carry-on, make sure it can be folded, fully collapsed or easily stuffed into small places. Your sleeping quarters will be reduced proportionately by how much stuff you bring.

Hair Styling and Toiletries – Leave your curling iron, hair dryer and straightener at home. We have all you need on board. Besides that, the electricity in this part of the world is 240v so your 110v electricals won’t survive being plugged in. We have shampoo, conditioner, soap and toothpaste. If you prefer to use your own feel free to bring your favourite items along. Bring your own sunscreen and bug spray if you use these things.​

Fresh Water – We have two fresh water tanks totalling 1200 L of water. We fill up at the convenient water points as we go. We never leave the water running! Please do your best to conserve water. It comes at a premium on a barge, sometimes it is difficult to fill at our convenience!

Dirty Dishes – We do have a dishwasher but rather than using a cup or glass once we can mark the ones you use with your name on them a second time between dishwasher loads.

Electricity – Our power comes from our battery bank with solar panels, or from an on shore connection. We also can run our inboard 8KW diesel generator if necessary. European power is 240v and not 110v. Cell Phones, Laptops and Cameras – If you need to plug something in be sure it can take the 240v electricity. We also have a 12-volt charger if you need it!! This will allow you to charge your device at any time on our barge.

Internet – The ability to connect to the internet varies greatly depending on which area of the country we are in. You can check messages if we can pick up an open wifi signal, otherwise you’ll have to wait until you can get a wifi signal at a restaurant. Connection speeds are often painfully slow and expensive and are far from what most people are used to.

Strange Noises – You’ll hear noises you’re not used to hearing. We spent months identifying all the strange sounds on our barge when we first moved aboard and now we know instantly when something doesn’t sound right. Try to relax and let us worry about the noises.

Sea Legs – Because we will be journeying on canals and rivers there is motion but not as much as when we are at sea. Some people take to the water naturally, and some have a harder time getting used to the movement of the barge. Bring seasickness medication if you think you’ll need it. After a while it will feel stranger to be on land than on the barge! We have certified life jackets for everyone on board. Be sure you know where yours is. Life jackets will be required for all on deck while locking and as required by the Skipper.

Food – Please let us know before you come if you have any food allergies or horrendous dislikes.

Coffee and tea are always available as are other drinks, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Just ask.

Physical Abilities – Unfortunately, visiting our barge requires a fair amount of physical ability. The primary method for boarding our barge is by walking on the boarding ramp. Once on deck you go to the stern and enter by the wheelhouse. When going into the main cabin from the wheelhouse remember to descend backwards facing the steps taking the seven steps before reaching the cabin floor. Inside the main cabin it is all flat from there….. ​Don’t Forget – You’ll need a pair of sunglasses and a smile! (Polarized lenses are best) and maybe a hat.

Going through locks and mooring — each guest must wear a life jacket while going in, locking, and exiting a lock if they are outside. We have specific life jackets on board for each person. Until you are sure of our method and procedures, please stay well away from the action. Moving lines can be very dangerous. Stay either in the wheelhouse or midway between the bow and the stern where we will be attending to the business at hand. MOSTLY, we hope you enjoy our little moving slice of paradise and find that the area we are exploring varies from one week to the next.

Also remember that our plans are set in Jello so are changeable at a moment’s notice. Relax, have fun, relax, live slow!!!

​Expenses – we are in transition mode here so have decided that we will share the expenses with our guests. This includes a share of the fuel used for our journey. We all have to eat no matter where we are so we propose to share our food (and wine if you appreciate it) expenses while on board. Meals or drinks away from the barge are your own expense. Most of all we want you to have a fabulous time with us on our little slice of moving, floating paradise!!

From Monica:


This information is important for the safety and comfort of all.


Do not argue. He knows best…even if things don’t always go according to plan.


This is a NO-SMOKING boat. That means, even on the dock. If you are a smoker, your clothes will smell, as will your person. This smell lingers long after your departure. This is a fact. If you cannot remain smoke free for the duration of your visit, then please decline our invitation.

A boat is a container bobbing in the water. It needs constant internal and external maintenance to ensure it stays bobbing. You can help us maintain this vessel if you wish, as part of your boat experience, but please do not tell us to ‘relax’ when you see us working. We will have time to relax when we have done what is necessary each day. Sometimes your help will not be ‘helpful’ so don’t take offence when you are asked not to.

A boat has limited outlet for stale and moist air, so ventilation is important, esp. when using water. Please leave the fans running in your stateroom to circulate air. Do not leave port holes open when underway…they will take on water!

Hang up your bath towel on the outside rail provided, to dry. Do not leave it in the Head.

Please refrain from using perfumes/after shave whilst onboard.

This is a SMALL space in which we live full time. Therefore, our belongings are all around us. Please respect this and do not move them unless you ask first. Often there is nowhere else to put them.

Hard luggage will not be permitted inside the boat. The spaces are small and there is none available for large suitcases. Your personal belongings will need to be few and packed into a soft duffel please.

Shoes off inside the boat, at all times. No dark soled shoes are permitted on the boat -leaves black marks on the gel coat surface. You can leave your shoes under the back ladder for when you need them onshore

Safety is a HUGE issue. If you are standing on the outside of the boat, please make sure you hold onto something that is solid. When moving to the front of the boat, please use the utmost caution, using handrails at all times.

DO NOT RUSH any of your movements. Do NOT Run on the boat, inside or out.

This is not a Child friendly environment, so please don’t be offended when we ask that you do not bring your children. We would all like to relax in this environment, and children (up to age 18) need constant supervision.

When descending stairs, please do so with your head down (or risk decapitation), looking where you are stepping, preferably sideways.

Do not wear socks inside the boat unless they have sticky surfaces. The woodwork is shiny and you will slip otherwise.

Trash is a problem. Do not bring containers onto the boat unless they are sealed. Bugs such as cockroaches live in packaging, and are hard to eradicate once established in our boat. All purchases in packaging (boxes) must be unpacked on shore before going onto the boat. Make sure you have plastic bags e.g. Ziplocs, with you prior to going out so that you can transfer contents.

Movement while the boat is underway:

Your body should have three points of contact with a solid surface at all times. This might mean wedging yourself against something where you cannot fall or hurt yourself…this is especially important when using the Head.

Be very aware of your surroundings. Ask if there is any doubt about your movement onboard whilst underway.

It is a good idea to have all the items you may want for the days cruising in a bag beside where you sit.  This will negate unnecessary movement whilst underway.

Drinks are available in the upstairs refrigerator.


When you take a shower, please use the bath gel supplied.  The hot water heater holds only 20 gallons, so please use as little as possible. It is recommended that you wet your body, turn off the water to soap, and then restart the water to rinse off.

If you are the last person to shower in that shower, please squeegee out the enclosure, and wipe down any residual with the microfibre towel available. This minimizes the moisture trapped in this small area. Please pin the shower door back against the sink before leaving the head


Rule of thumb…if you haven’t eaten it, don’t put it in the loo! Tampons or other sanitary items should be wrapped in toilet paper and disposed of in the ship’s trash. Please ask for a bag where necessary.

The toilets are electric seawater flush.  The holding tank is only 60 gallons, so the less water used in flushing, the better. Please wet the bowl before you use it by pressing the black button long enough to run water into the bowl.  Please use a minimum of paper. Blocking the toilet is not acceptable and the culprit will be asked to unblock it. If you HAVE to use more paper, please flush more often to make sure it will go down the hole.

Do not touch the clear plastic surrounds with sunscreen on your hands. This causes permanent damage to them.

Click here for Monica’s website – and her Great Loop Adventures

What’s your best tip/advice for visitors?

Or do you have a fun story you’d like to share?

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