Smoke without ire

How to be a good boat neighbour whilst keeping warm with a solid fuel stove

Moored boats Leicester Line Grand Union Moored boats Leicester Line Grand Union

It’s reached that time of year when the leaves are dropping off the trees and I’ve already had to scrape ice off the car in the mornings. As a result, the solid fuel stove on my narrowboat is now in service 24/7 and probably will be until late spring next year.

I haven’t yet needed to replace the grate from last season but I’ve got a spare ready for the moment it gives up the ghost. I’m sure this will happen at the most inconvenient moment when I’ve just piled on a whole load more fuel and stoked it up to max, but at least I have got a spare ready and waiting.

There’s a new stainless steel chimney on order to replace our increasingly fragile bog standard chandlery-bought one from last season. When I first started boating a chimney would last more than a couple of seasons, sometimes even three or four. I swear the quality has diminished of late. A good chimney of the correct height and width is essential for getting a good draw on the flue to ensure safe and efficient combustion of fuel. A hat or a wind cowl is helpful too for stopping rain and annoying gusts of wind that can blow smoke back into the cabin on very blustery days.

Sign at Islington Visitor Moorings in LondonTrouble with the neighbours

We’re lucky where we moor that we have no very close land-based neighbours, just other boats. However in many towns and cities, canals run through residential areas and this time of year conflict between boaters and land based residents can reach epic proportions over smoke emissions. The battle of Islington visitor moorings carried on for many years resulting many a phone call and complaint from both sides when I worked in London for the Trust. Hopefully we’ve now got a mutually agreeable solution which minimizes the conflict but there’s still more work to be done.

Top tips for reducing smoke emissions

We do ask all customers to be considerate when using a solid fuel stove, especially in very heavily populated areas. Why go looking for troubles when troubles can come and find you and possibly impact on our wonderful floating lifestyle? Here’s a few top tips for not smoking everyone out!

  • keep fuel dry as far as is practical and use the right fuel for your stove.
  • use smokeless fuels – I promise you that if you use cheap house coal you’ll have to sweep your chimney every week and repaint your boat in the spring! Been there, done that, got the grubby T-shirt.
  • only add fuel a little at a time, adding a lot in one go produces lots of smoke, especially if it’s damp.
  • never ever burn plastics, chipboard, treated wood and other types of rubbish, there’s more environmentally friendly and less dangerously smoky ways of disposal.

There's more good advice and top tips on using your stove available on the internet.

Guide to wood & multifuel stoves

Stove help and advice

Stay toasty and safe this winter and don’t get any grief from the neighbours.

Last date edited: 14 June 2018

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