Online House Hunter: Living afloat

Alan Cleaver
narrow 300x200 Online House Hunter: Living afloat

Taking life at a slower pace aboard a narrowboat

LIFE is one long holiday for Simon Calder. The Independent’s travel editor famed for being the “journalist that pays his way” must be envied for having a job that can take him to the world’s most exotic locations.

So where could he be found a few weeks ago? On a narrowboat chugging at four miles an hour through Droitwich. And I don’t suppose I was the only reader who fell in love once again with the dream of a snail-paced peaceful life through Britain’s network of canals and rivers.

A boat or narrowboat holiday is a delightful means of escape but how about living permanently on the river bank? Incredibly half the population of the UK lives within five miles of a canal or river – and add on that those living beside the sea.

There’s 2,200 miles of canals and rivers to choose from and that figure is actually growing. In the past decade 200 miles of new waterways have opened, the first time the network has grown since the mid-19th century. Mr Calder’s sojourn along the Droitwich canal marked the reopening of this Midland waterway after a multi-million pound restoration project.

But before you dive in – if you’ll pardon the pun – and sell up your family home in favour of a residential mooring, there is much to consider. Hopefully the links below will steer you in the right direction.

First, you may want to weigh up whether it will cost you more or less living on a boat. There’s the question of mooring fees, maintenance fees, council tax, fuel costs, electric and water supplies, insurance and so forth. The livingonaboat website tackles these and many other issues.

If you’re looking at a boat as a first home or need help with the ‘mortgage’ then marine finance is a topic you’ll need to get fully to grips with. A quick Google will put you in touch with the many commercial websites offering such services.

As to the practicalities of living on a narrowboat or boat moored in a marina, the first stop online probably needs to be the British Waterways home page. It covers just about everything you’ll need to know and has a subsites on other topics such as the vexed topic of licences. Yes, you’ll need a licence for living, working or sailing around the UK’s waterways and those licences come with a variety of conditions. You’ll also find the British Waterways’ leisure website, full of practical advice on topics ranging from moorings to boating etiquette. One fantastic resource is a downloadable guide for each waterway and you can decide what features – navigation notes, visitor moorings etc – you want included.

As to council tax – it’s complicated. The Residential Boat Owners Association gives advice on this issue to its members but says on its website:

“Based on examples known to the RBOA (and we’re not joking), there are three ways in which a local Council might view a liveaboard for Council Tax purposes: the liveaboard is not liable for Council Tax; the liveaboard is liable for Council Tax; or the landlord is liable for Business Rates but the liveaboard is not liable for council tax.”

You’ll need to check carefully before buying your new house/boat and take care also to find out any restrictions on living and working on the boat, and for what period of time you can guarantee staying in one place. But moving house will at least be a simple case of chugging down river at four miles an hour…


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  • John Slee

    If you want to follow the story of someone who actually lives on a boat, have a look at the daily blog of

  • Spirulina Tablets

    I think living on a boat is a romantic idea

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