Living on a canal boat – things to consider

Many people live on boats on UK canals and rivers, 20,000 and rising by some estimates, and most of those people do it because it is the life they choose and love. But before you make that giant step from living on dry land to living afloat on a boat on the canals, you need to do some serious thinking!

Living afloat can be wonderful, it can be empowering, and it can be hard.

  • Moving afloat – not just a change of location, it’s a fundamental change to the way you live.
  • Lifestyle improvements – you can gain lost freedom, downsize, simplify, cut costs, empower, see fresh horizons and make new friends everyday.
  • Lifestyle limitations – less space, less security, less of the daily comforts we have come to expect.
  • Rules and responsibilities– this is not living ‘off the grid’ without cares and responsibilities. It can be a demanding, lonely and hard life.

Living afloat on a narrowboat does sound wonderful!

Captain mugLiving on a canal boat can seem almost idyllic, conjuring up images of brightly painted cosy boats tied up alongside sunny country fields or in friendly, economic city centre marinas. Being you own ‘captain’, able to move on whenever and wherever mood or weather or job may take you.

Maybe you want to enjoy retirement, downsize and tour our countryside, find a simpler way of life out of the urban rat-race, or even just find somewhere cheaper to live in cities where house prices and rents are soaring through the roof.

Who wants to live on a canal boat?

  • People wanting to see the countryside; sell the house, buy a boat and invest the rest.
  • People opting out of the rat race and downshifting, especially if they can work from home.
  • Anyone trying to find budget accommodation in an expensive area such as a city centre.
  • People who just like canals and wanting a view of water from their window.
  • Overseas visitors on an economical extended tour of the real UK.
  • Anyone wanting or needing to be mobile.

But the Liveaboard Lifestyle needs careful thought.

Any move, even if it is only from one house to another, can be traumatic, reportedly one of the most stressful things we do in our lifetime! And this is not just a move, it will be a major change in lifestyle, so don’t expect it to be simple.

The reality of living on a canal boat, being a ‘liveaboard’, is not quite straightforward. Just because you are leaving a house or flat behind, maybe ‘downsizing’ or choosing a ‘simpler life’ doesn’t mean you can avoid restrictions. This is still a crowded little island and there are still many of rules and regulations that you have to be aware of and things to consider that you would not have to bother about if you were ‘ashore’. Many of the services and and protections we can take for granted in our ‘land locked’ lives are not there once you no longer have a home on dry land.

Choosing a boat, finding a place to moor, big decisions!

Of course you have to find the right boat to live on, work out how to get the supplies and services you will need and consider how you will keep in touch with the rest of the world (assuming you want to!). But even more importantly you have to realise that there is a great shortage of moorings where you will be allowed to live for any legth of time. If you don’t intend to have a ‘home’ mooring but become a ‘Continuous Cruiser’ you have to understand the mooring restrictions that apply. See our page on ‘Finding a residential mooring‘, it is a complicated situation that you must consider and understand before making any move afloat. More details are also in our regular News Reports including ‘What it means to be a Continuous Cruiser‘. Keep watching our Canal News Section to keep updated about the latest situation, things are constantly developing.

How to plan living afloat on canals and rivers.

If you do decide to take the plunge we’ve first hand information and advice from people who have made the ‘jump’ in our Liveaboards Blog and Liveaboards Top Tens including Ten Tips to Help You Stay Green Afloat, Ten Ways to Save Energy in a Liveaboard Galley and ‘Ten Things You May Miss If You’re Living Afloat‘.

There’s more information on the internet too, the Residential Boat Owners Association and the National Association of Boat Owners both represent live aboard boaters and have information for potential liveaboards, the Canal and River Trust publish a range of guidance materials about living on the canals.

Please don’t ask us to find a mooring, we don’t have any!

And, right here at the start, a heartfelt plea from Canal Junction! Please don’t email us to ask if we can help you find a residential mooring – we would love to be able to help – but we can’t! All the advice and helpful information we have is right here, we are holding nothing back! Unfortunately finding a residential mooring, especially in cities, can be desperately difficult!

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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