Buying a canal boat

Buying a canal boat is one of the biggest financial decisions you will ever have to make. If you’re a novice it can be a steep learning curve, so to help with the purchase process, canal boat insurance provider, Towergate Insurance and ‘Atlantis’ owner, Tony Waldron, have put together a Canal Boat Buying Guide.
Tony and Chris had no experience of canal boats prior to their purchase of a 64 foot Anglo-Welsh hire boat in 2000.  It was first launched in 1982 and refurbished in the mid 1990s.  They spent 11 years continuous cruising, primarily on the Thames and Oxford canal, but also exploring the midlands canal and river network.

So what sort of canal boat are you looking for?

Consider its use - are you going to live-aboard the craft or use it just for leisure? If your craft is to become your permanent home, you may need more space than one that’s going to be used for a few months a year.

Boat dogA canal boat of 50 foot plus is an ample size for a ‘home’, although be mindful that some locks carry restrictions on vessels over 60 foot. Leisure craft tend to be around 30 to 40 foot. If you’re living with someone, the design and layout will have to meet both your needs. Do you want something that’s open plan or with separate living and dining areas so you have space from each other? What furniture and storage space is on board? If you’re living aboard, you may need additional storage facilities.

Heating – the majority of boats are heated by a solid fuel burner or gas/diesel powered central heating. Solid fuel burners, although mainly stand-alone, can run radiators and provide hot water via a back boiler and calorifier. Gas and diesel systems won’t give you that same ‘warm glow’ in the lounge area, but are quicker to produce heat.

Hot water – provided either by instant gas/diesel heating systems or a calorifier, a water storage heater linked to the engine cooling system or back boiler.

Ablutions – there are advocates of both the pump-out and portable cassette-type chemical toilets. Pump-outs need a fixed holding tank and contents are removed at a pump-out station. You’ll pay between £10-£15 per pump-out, however, stations can freeze in winter. Porta potties have a cassette mechanism. The bottom half, ‘the cassette’, carries the waste whilst the top half houses the freshwater flushing mechanism and the seat. As spare cassettes are available, it reduces the amount of time you have to visit sanitary stations and when they are emptied, it’s usually free of charge.

Stern - once you’ve decided upon the interior, consider what stern is most appropriate. There are three types; traditional - with a short back deck of around two to three feet (limited standing room only), cruiser- between four to eight feet with more space and somewhere to sit and semi-traditional - a compromise of the two, similar to traditional in look, but with the space of a cruiser.

Buying a Canal Boat Guide Part 2 - A new or used canal boat

Buying Your Narrowboat Tony and Chris Waldron and Atlantis

Be in the know
If you undertake research, it’s likely to make the purchase process less fraught. Check out websites, magazines, marinas, brokerages, builders and fitters plus organisations such as British Waterways, the Royal Yachting Association and the Residential Boat Owners Association.

Ask the Experts

Ask the experts
View this and other Guides at (click on boat, then boat tips) and for insurance advice call 0800 515629 or 01743 284664. Lines are open 9am - 7pm weekdays/9am - 1pm Saturday (from April to September) and 9am – 5pm the remainder of the year.


Canal boat owners taking out Towergate’s Fresh Waters policy can either purchase River Canal Rescue support at a discounted rate or opt for a higher level of policy cover and receive it automatically.





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