The reality of living on your boat

Many boat owners dream of turning their weekend passion into something more permanent. What are the pros and cons of living life aboard?


The dramatic increase in house prices in recent years has caused more people to consider the idea of a life always afloat. Canal boats, for example, can be bought for a fraction of the price of the UK’s average home. But there are still a number of costs to consider.


To stay in one place you will need to buy or rent a permanent mooring, which can be expensive and hard to come by— though it will often bring with it comforts such as electricity supplies and laundry facilities. Being always on the move could prove cheaper, but you will be subject to rules about where you may moor for free, and for how long. Other costs include insurance, river licences and maintenance (see below). And remember, the value of boats tends to fall over time, unlike bricks and mortar.


Boats require constant care and attention, arguably more so than houses or flats. You must be prepared to roll up your sleeves, pick up a spanner and get to know the workings of your boat, from the engines to the holding tank. It would prove very expensive, and sometimes impractical, to call out an engineer every time something went wrong. On the plus side, there is satisfaction to be gained from doing things yourself. Members of the boating community also have a wealth of experience that they are happy to share in exchange for tea, biscuits, or a few beers.


Most boats offer limited storage, meaning that all except the most essential possessions must be left ashore. Modern technology can be a help here, with e-readers and memory sticks taking the place of books and CD collections. You will also become extremely creative in finding places to put things. Living in confined quarters can put a strain on personal relationships—a degree of tolerance is required!


You will need to consider access to healthcare, how to get your post, possibly the schooling of your children. These are not trivial issues. But what better way to counteract the stresses of modern living, get more in tune with nature and appreciate the true value of things—like access to fresh water, or a warm cabin on a cold day—than live on a boat?

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