Living on a canal or river mooring.
It is possible to live on a boat on a canal or river mooring, and thousands of people do it. However if you don't have an official residential mooring it can be a very 'insecure' way of life. You can be moved on at any time, ultimately you could be fined and your boat seized.
Residential moorings on canals
Residential moorings where you can live permanently do exist, the Canal & River Trust run some, there are privately owned residential moorings and some boatyards and marinas offer some. But the majority of moorings are non residential, meaning that you are not allowed to live on a boat on that mooring for more than a few days or weeks. And you are not allowed to 'shuffle' between nearby mooring places.
For many years British Waterways actively discouraged 'liveaboards'. During the eighties living on a boat was seen, rightly or wrongly, as a way of avoiding rates or poll tax and of getting to the top of the council house waiting lists. The freedom of living afloat with low overheads can appeal to many people who wish to 'turn their back on consumer society'. Equally though, some of the most desirable London properties are floating on the Thames or Regents Canal, and many hard working people retire, sell the house and buy a canal boat to live on and explore their own country. Residential moorings certainly cost more and they are especially difficult to find in urban areas where demand is greater than supply. In cities such as London most accommodation gets advertised and let through the normal property sales and letting channels, estate agents etc.
It is often easier to buy a boat with a residential mooring, rather than get them separately. Getting a boat is no problem (see Buying a residential boat), finding a mooring is, and boats with a mooring often change hands for more than twice the boat value. If you know the area where you would like to moor then walk the towpath and talk to people on boats to see what they know. Visit boatyards (see our listings) and ask if they know of any residential moorings. Contact the Canal and River Trust to see if they have any residential moorings locally, they are trying to set up more residential places.
Many people living on their boats move around the canal system regularly and they are known as 'Continuous Cruisers' - on an 'extended cruise'. They don't pay for a 'home mooring' on a marina or canalside. This is fully acceptable under the licensing regulations, however there are important restrictions. The Canal and River Trust explains to boaters who don't have a home mooring '.. you don’t have a home mooring for your boat, so you’re registered as a ‘continuous cruiser’. This means that throughout the period of your licence you must ‘bona fide’ navigate and not stay in the same place for more than 14 days. The definition of navigating implies a journey of some length, so you can’t shuffle to and fro in a small area, just because that’s where your work or other commitments are.' See our News Report - What it means to be a Continuous Cruiser.
The legality of insisting that continuous cruising must mean 'real movement' has now been upheld in the courts, though there are ongoing discussions about how it can be implemented.
This shouldn't create problems if you are genuinely cruising the system, but by restricting mooring duration in one place, minimum distance to the next temporary moorings and restrictions on return, it will make your life difficult if you live on a boat and want to stay in the same geographical area, for work perhaps. Although C&RT express sympathy for those who can't find residential moorings in the area in which they work or wish to live, they state ' Our duties do not include those of a housing authority'.
C&RT are also under pressure from other boaters and canal users about increasing numbers of liveaboard boats, especially in a few locations. An 85% increase in 'continuous cruisers' over one year in East London has been reported. Leisure boaters complain that they can't find convenient moorings because short term visitor moorings are being filled by long stay liveaboards. Canal users and local people complain about unsightly boats moored in long lines and Local Authorities may be unhappy about the extra pressure on local services. C&RT has recently been working with local groups including boat dwellers in some of the worst affected areas, like London and the western Kennet and Avon to try to find solutions to these problems, see more in our Canal News Section.
Even genuine continuous cruisers can find moving difficult in winter because of bad weather and canal maintenance closures. C&RT now offer some temporary residential moorings available over the winter so continuous cruisers can stay in one place through the winter, then cruise from spring to autumn.
Trying to Dodge the System
You could try moving up and down the local length but CRT, as we've detailed above, will not approve and are now getting more able to stop you. You also need to consider security and access, boats moored on the towpath can be easily broken into when you are out, not too good if you have all your worldly possessions onboard. (It's happened to us!) You should only consider mooring without a residential licence as a temporary solution while you look for a decent permanent mooring. People do live on boats across the canal system without having residential licences, but it can involve subterfuge, midnight flits and not hanging washing out!