The number of people looking to permanently live aboard a narrowboat seems to be increasing all the time. Some may choose to do so through life-style choice. Others may be considering it purely because they cannot afford to buy a house or flat and they think buying a boat, possibly helped by a loan, is a much cheaper alternative – which it may not be. See our Finance Page.
There are many pro’s and con’s and if you know little or nothing about boating you can do no better than seek advice from the experts: The Residential Boat Owners Association. They have an interesting and informative website and will send you on request a free advice leaflet. They also publish an excellent paperback book “Living Afloat” packed with probably all the information you will need to make an informed decision on whether the boating life is for you and the best way to go about it. We usually have this book in stock at our Marina shop.
We would like to briefly highlight two major issues here:
Residential Moorings. If you are taking a year or two out from your life ashore to cruise around the system then mooring is not normally an issue; generally you are allowed to moor anywhere along the towpath for up to a fortnight before you have to move on. BW call this ‘continual cruising’ and will not insist you have a permanent home mooring before issuing you with their annual licence.
However, if you need to remain in a specific area then you must have a permanent and officially approved residential mooring. It is important to appreciate the great demand for these moorings outstrips supply in most areas. You may well have considerable difficulty finding a suitable berth within an acceptable travelling distance of your place of work. It will be a good idea to find a mooring first, even starting to pay for it if necessary, before you buy a boat. The length of the mooring will govern the maximum size of the boat you can buy. You’ll have a bit of a problem if you’ve bought a 60ft boat and can only find a 45ft berth! Unfortunately whilst we can usually offer leisure moorings in our marina, we are unable to provide residential berths.
We would recommend you try to find a serviced mooring with a 230V electricity supply; this will make life aboard so much more comfortable.
A starting point might be British Waterways’ website waterscape.com where you will find details of any BW moorings available and listings of privately owned locations. You could try walking the towpath in your desired area and asking around. In popular locations your search will not be easy.
Retaining somewhere to live ashore. There may well come a time when you need to give up living aboard. This could be through illness or physical disability, by frailty through old age or by a complete change of heart. Some boaters will continue to keep a house or flat going just for this eventuality, perhaps having it let out in the interim through property agents. Houses have always increased in value over time; a boat, no matter how well looked after, can only depreciate. Moving back ashore can be a huge financial problem for those who have not prepared for this.
If you need to take out a loan to help buy your boat please go to our Finance section for further information.
The annual costs of living aboard might be higher than you imagine and you may find our Costs in Use page helpful.