to consider living in a canal boat?

(90 Posts)

OH and I are saving and saving to buy land and build (and maybe for me to set up a business) and he would like to move from our rented house to a canal boat (we live near a lot of canals).
It would definitely save money though there would be certain sacrifices but I can't help but think that it would be a bit of a laugh...
We're in our mid-twenties and don't have any responsibilities, it could be a lot of fun (?)
AIBU to seriously think about it or have I got some extremely rose-tinted glasses on?

limitedperiodonly Thu 14-Mar-13 19:12:03

My friend does. It's a larger than average boat and she's single. Do you want me to ask her and PM you?

PM me with your questions.

Geekster Thu 14-Mar-13 19:12:36

There is no way I would live in a canal boat. I went on a canal boat holiday with my family as a teenager, it was cramped you had to pour water down the loo if you did a poo. And we all had asthma attacks at night from the fumes! We went home three days early which is unheard of of my Dad if he has paid for something! My MIL suggested me and DH going on a canal boat holiday with them I said NO! It was a few years ago things might have improved since then.

Librarina Thu 14-Mar-13 19:13:35

Not at all. A friend of mine lives alone on a lovely narrow boat and I am very jealous of her life. There are if course complications, but it is warm and cosy, has everything within that you need and has the advantage of a quirky and interesting community on the mooring. I've stayed over for weekends and the odd week and have always loved it. It is particularly nice being gently rocked to sleep by the waves.

I have no idea as to the cost but it does work out cheaper than a house and it is definitely more fun!

RooneyMara Thu 14-Mar-13 19:17:55

The thing wot worries me about this, and I LOVE canal boats - is that you'd have to vacate it for a certain amount of time each year for maintenance. Also all the things to do with registering for medical services and council tax and all that gumf.

Otherwise I'd say go for it.

TheAccidentalExhibitionist Thu 14-Mar-13 19:18:10

I think it sounds lovely. I'm very envy
If you get the opportunity, take it!

thebody Thu 14-Mar-13 19:20:50

I know absolutely nothing about it but I do know that life without kids and responsibilities is the time to do stuff like this.

Sounds fantastic.

Camwombat Thu 14-Mar-13 19:22:58

Do it! we lived on a boat for 8 years and loved it! smile
A proper liveaboard boat is set up very differently to a hire boat.
We cruised around the canals and rivers.
It was a heartbreaking time when we moved off and sold it. sad
PM me if you want more info on it.

TomDudgeon Thu 14-Mar-13 19:23:32

Is it seeker who lives on a boat? There's a regular who does

CloudsAndTrees Thu 14-Mar-13 19:24:04

I know a family of four that lives on a boat. I'm not sure if its what you'd class as a canal boat though, I'm pretty clueless when it ones to types of boats!

I think it would be a nice lifestyle if you weren't bothered too much by cold, wind, and lack of storage space. It is cold and windy every single time I visit this family, even in the summer. It would make me miserable.

PopeBenedictsP45 Thu 14-Mar-13 19:24:59

Do it! Our friends live on one and love it. The only time they get a bit cabin feverish is in the winter because they can't sit outside. They have a lovely life and as Librarina says, the camaraderie along the canal is great.

MooncupGoddess Thu 14-Mar-13 19:27:36

Narrowboats are lovely, and if you fancy a weekend away you can take your house with you!

But it helps if you're quite handy as minor issues often crop up. And check the heating and plumbing situation carefully before you commit to anything.

apolloduck is the website to check out.

LynetteScavo Thu 14-Mar-13 19:28:04

Well I can't sit outside in the winter, and I have a large garden!

If you don't have any DC, I think it would be great. If you have toddlers, I imagine it would be difficult.

akaemmafrost Thu 14-Mar-13 19:28:19

I would love this. Someone I used to know had a permanent berth and had a little garden cultivated on the river bank right next to her boat. It was lovely. Where my parents live is very rural and I go running along the canal there. Quite a few boats and when it's early and do quiet and beautiful I think it must be the perfect life getting up and sitting on deck with a cup of tea. I'd do it in a second if I could.

Magimedi Thu 14-Mar-13 19:29:30

Do it! No responsibilities is the time to do crazy things.

Locketjuice Thu 14-Mar-13 19:29:43

My parents live on a Dutch barge smile

They love it, I also lived on it for years smile

I think it would be an adventure. No one would be surprised, we are quite "quirky" but the lack of space bothers me. I like space... but then maybe I would be more appreciative of space when we move to build a house?

TeacupTempest Thu 14-Mar-13 19:34:13

I live on a boat. Not a canal boat though. Life can be more of a challenge in a day to day way but it definitely has benefits.

TeacupTempest Thu 14-Mar-13 19:35:45

It's a bit like being a grow to the size of your pond. Its cathartic to get rid of so much stuff that you don't really need!

Camwombat Thu 14-Mar-13 19:35:55

It is a wonderful lifestyle, there are lots of blogs to read of people who liveaboard.
We only moved off because we wanted to have baby in house and not on a narrowboat. Plus by time we moved off I was so big...
DO IT, DO IT, DO IT! (btw I love boat shopping)

NicholasTeakozy Thu 14-Mar-13 19:38:24

I know a man who lives on a narrowboat, just him and his dog. He loves it, moors up for a few weeks in one place then off he goes to the next place. I do envy him a bit.

I like this one! Canal Boat

Camwombat Thu 14-Mar-13 20:06:16

also look at abnb, whilton marina (good for wide selection), Apollo duck.
that looks reasonably priced, I would want a bit more info about it.
I think I pm'd you.

seeker Thu 14-Mar-13 20:09:12

I wouldn't live on a canal boat, I would- and do- live on our boat though!

What kind of boat do you live on, seeker?

ihategeorgeosborne Thu 14-Mar-13 20:32:51

I have a lot of friends who live on canal boats. There are many families at our local school on boats. Where we live is a high house price area and if you can't afford to buy and can't afford the high rents, many people don't have much choice. I would do it myself, but with 3 dc, I think it might just be a step too far! It would be lovely in the Summer though I would imagine.

seeker Thu 14-Mar-13 20:40:21

We live on a Humber Keel.

Lots of my neighbours live on canal boats. The things to remember are that council tax and mooring charges S(and the fees for internet access should you go for that) can be quite high, and might make it less financially advantageous than you might think.

But I think it can be a really nice community and all the people we know who're on the moorings outside are really keen to help newbies out and get people interested in being part of that lifestyle.

Good luck! smile

coatonarack Thu 14-Mar-13 20:45:40


Weils disease (see rats)

You won't be able to get a mortgage as boats depreciate in value rather than appreciate (as houses do)

Crap in winter

Communal showers at the mooring site

More rats


cherrycarpet Thu 14-Mar-13 20:46:03

I'd say go for it! Great time in your lives to do it. My brother used to live on one in London and loved it. We currently live in a 'canal' town in Wiltshire and I know there's a great community of boaters here. We'd love to do it but with 4DC I think it might be a bit cramped....

Good time of year to start investigating it with Spring coming. Nothing ventured - nothing gained! Good luck.

seeker Thu 14-Mar-13 20:48:31

Aga. Posh bathroom. Insulation. Mains electricity. Clavicord.

coatonarack - I'm getting the impression I should be wary of rats? grin

Seeker - OH is dribbling over the pictures of Humber Keels that I've found - where do you moor that? Only on the coast i imagine (I know nothing about boats!)

Chesntoots Thu 14-Mar-13 20:51:59

You can get a mortgage, but it has to be a specific marine one. Last time I checked Barclays did one but it was a minimum 20% deposit.
Get yourself to Crick boat show and have a nosey.
Boat porn...mmmm...

zippy539 Thu 14-Mar-13 20:52:41

coat can you you expand on the rat thing. I've always wanted to live on a canal boat but rats are the one thing that puts me off cos I'm phobic about them.

What is the actual deal with rats and house-boats???? Am I more/less likely to wake up to a rat gnawing on my eyeballs in my inner-city flat than in a houseboat?

seeker Thu 14-Mar-13 20:53:52

There are some pictures (inside only) of ours on my profile- taken when we were rich and had tiny controllable children and a cleaner. I can't bear to look at them now!

Wide gauge canal or estuary or big river only- we wouldn't fir in an ordinary canal!

seeker Thu 14-Mar-13 20:54:59

Rats- well, you see rats more because they like water. But a good cat sorts them out!

coatonarack Thu 14-Mar-13 20:55:41

I lived between Teddington and Kingston and EX D was obsessed with living on a boat in Richmond. Then we heard that someone had died on his boat at Kingston. He had been eating the herbs which he had watered with Thames water.

I won't say that his final words were "oh rats" as this is a true story.

MisForMumNotMaid Thu 14-Mar-13 20:56:14

Have you ever stayed on a boat? Could you get some leave and take a break before the boating season really starts to see what its like at this time of year.

Omnishambolic Thu 14-Mar-13 20:57:22

Wow Seeker - that's gorgeous!

coatonarack Thu 14-Mar-13 20:57:58

Mind you, some friends of ours at Hampton woke up to hear their dogs barking and went to the loo in the middle of the night. Instead of finding Oscar Pistorius, they found a bloody great river rat sitting on their loo seat, having swum up the u- bend.

Kiwiinkits Thu 14-Mar-13 21:01:13

Do it! While you're still free and unencumbered do EVERYTHING you want to do, because life changes when you have kids. It really does. Before I had my DDs I had visions of backpacking and travelling with kids. That vision was completely misguided. We now do what everyone else does: we put the kids to bed and watch TV. BORRRRRRRING. Very jealous of you and your opportunities.

BTW I read a great book a while back about travelling through England and France on a narrow boat. It was called Narrow Dog to Carcassone. Or something like that. It was great. Look it up at your library.

zippy539 Thu 14-Mar-13 21:04:07

coat see it's that kind of story that puts me RIGHT off.

zippy539 Thu 14-Mar-13 21:06:46

Mind you have just googled river rats and they look slightly less BOAK than your average city rat. Less pointy nosed... Looking through my fingers so could be wrong though..

akaemmafrost Thu 14-Mar-13 21:06:59

<<screams>> at rat story.

seeker Thu 14-Mar-13 21:11:40

We've never had a rat aboard that wasn't brought aboard by a cat. Not sure if that helps or not.......

The toilet doesn't lead to the outside, it leads to a tank - so how could a rat "swim" up the u-bend? Was it living in the sewerage tank?

And the watering herbs with thames water thing is something i occasionally refer to as "natural selection".

You have a 300 litre water tank for your water needs and the british waterways license includes use of fresh water stations.

coatonarack Thu 14-Mar-13 21:16:17

And it's true, true, true. Here's another rat story. Still with EH-DH, we went backpacking in Laos, near the Chinese border. We stayed in a wooden hut and rats were running everywhere, so i made sure that i was well zipped up in my sleeping bag. After a while i felt something running through my hair. " oooh DH! That feels nice."

SNORE zzzzzzzzz

It wasn't him. He was fast asleep.


zippy539 Thu 14-Mar-13 21:16:39

Actually Seeker that does help. I've only ever been aware of having mice in my flat when I had cats cos they insisted on offering them up as presents. So for those who like to live in rodent denial then a cat-free boat is clearly the way to go.

And there are rats EVERYWHERE. Whats the statistic about rats? You're never more than 6 foot from a rat in the UK?
Our garden is packed full of the blighters - we live next to a field - but luckily we haven't encountered one yet (we have a cat and a dog)

Seeker - is the cat okay on the boat then?

I'm far more bothered by spiders than rats - found a spider in my salad the other day... makes my skin crawl to think of them. Rats, meh! I'm sure they are more frightened of me (and my killer-cat)

akaemmafrost Thu 14-Mar-13 21:22:23

STOP IT coat <<shudders>>

coatonarack Thu 14-Mar-13 21:25:09

It's not the nose.

It's the.....


Going to do the ironing now. Byeeeeeee

akaemmafrost Thu 14-Mar-13 21:31:13

I hate spiders too. My dog eats them. I can't have him near me for hours after he has crunched them up with obvious delight. So grim!

cardibach Thu 14-Mar-13 21:33:44

What's that about communal showers? Nobody I know who has lived on a narrow boat has ever used those - they all have their own aboard! (I've known quite a few).
Rats prevalent everywhere.
Boats really warm and cosy in the winter.
Do it! My neice has just moved off hers (because she has moved to somewhere with no canals) but she loved it.

freddiefrog Thu 14-Mar-13 21:36:33

DH and I lived on a narrowboat for a couple of years pre-children

Tbh, it was a bit wasted on us, it was just a cheap place to live really

piratecat Thu 14-Mar-13 21:39:56

seeker, your boat is amazing. wow.

op ex dh and considered this too, before we had a baby, really fancied it for a while, then i got pg and i wanted real walls lol.

looks like the biggest cost is moorings - About £2,000-£2,500 a year in my area. Seems a lot...

BumpingFuglies Thu 14-Mar-13 22:28:57

It is a lot Op, but consider the offset in utilities. Seeker wanna buy my SeaRay 39 EC? grin

BumpingFuglies Thu 14-Mar-13 22:35:47

Sorry, meant that genuinely, twas my Dad's boat. Love it to bits, just can't keep it on. Gah, shuttup me.

Xiaoxiong Thu 14-Mar-13 23:11:21

Seeker I have a Humber keel!! Lived on it 2 years pre DC, and now stay there weekends & holidays.

Xiaoxiong Thu 14-Mar-13 23:21:11

And I've never even seen a rat on the river, let alone had one on board our barge. Or a spider. Now we have a real house we have rats in the garden and spiders in the bathroom hmm we also have a postcode, broadband, pay council tax, have a regular toilet, etc. it's no different to a house except for a little less room and the gentle rocking when the tide comes in.

Much prefer the look of a barge to a narrowboat. But where do you moor a barge? Spent the whole evening researching moorings in the midlands and there are no residential ones at all!

LadyPessaryPam Thu 14-Mar-13 23:34:37

I know someone who lives on a canal boat with her Mum and her Mums BF. It's shit, fucking cold and cramped and mostly muddy. I would never do it if I had a choice after hearing her story.

squeakytoy Thu 14-Mar-13 23:38:55

One of my friends has just moved onto a river boat to live.. I am so envious. I would absolutely love to do it.

Xiaoxiong Thu 14-Mar-13 23:57:57

SeventhHorcrux we are in the Thames. We're one of the smallest boats on our mooring at 57 ft long and 15ft beam. Try looking on rivers, estuary waters or old industrial docks/piers for larger moorings.

Pam it sounds like their boat was just uncomfortable, overcrowded and poorly maintained, just like there are flats and houses that are small and cold and damp and miserable - but they wouldn't put you off living in flats or houses in general would it?

Xiaoxiong Thu 14-Mar-13 23:59:28

*on the Thames, not in hmm

Bit worrying if you were in the Thames grin

Can't find anything for residential moorings really, nothing at a reasonable price anyway!
I'm giving up and going to bed for now - I will dream of boats and rats!

SaggyOldClothCatpuss Fri 15-Mar-13 00:05:21

Id love to live on a boat. Ive been to Whilton Lock and looked round the yard. Its lovely. Rats dont bother me.
What does concern me is maintenance costs. How often doe a canal boat need its hull scraping and repainting/rustproofing? Theres a smallish lightship moored near us, and they said every 5 years and about £50k! Its a lovely boat though, the cabins are beautiful. All fitted out in teak!

BeCool Fri 15-Mar-13 00:14:12

My colleague lives on one. It's a lifestyle choice and there is a lot of work involved with it. He has a lovely barge - but he doesn't use the loo except in an emergency and never for # 2s shock. He showers etc in gym. If you aren't plumbed into the mains dealing with waste is a pain.

I've never heard him mention rats though and the community of river dwellers seems v nice and interesting.

seeker Fri 15-Mar-13 07:24:33

There are nasty, cramped, cold and dirty houses too- presumably that doesn't put you off houses!

seeker Fri 15-Mar-13 07:25:48

If anyone is thinking of doing it though, remember that lovely boats are two a penny. Moorings, particularly secure, residential moorings, are like hen's teeth.

Xiaoxiong Fri 15-Mar-13 08:14:51

Agree with seeker - we bought a boat that came with its mooring, found it through apolloduck though it was also listed on riverhomes. The mooring lease approximately doubles the value of the boat.

And you can have a hot shower OR bath on our barge. We do try and use as little toilet paper as possible but that's just common sense wink

seeker Fri 15-Mar-13 08:37:51

You can have a shower or a bath on ours too. And cook hot food on the Aga. Oh, and if it gets chilly, you can turn up the central heating. You can also go to the loo.

Don't you just love a Humber Keel? So incredibly british looking-none of this fancy foreign looking pretty nonesense!

VerySmallSqueak Fri 15-Mar-13 21:51:25

I would absolutely do it if I had the money.
I would happily raise my children on a boat - what a great way to grow up.

MrsSparkles Fri 15-Mar-13 22:17:51

Do it, do it! My parents have a canal boat (not to live on though) and we have spent so many happy holidays on it.

Have never seen a rat, and the boat is warmer and cosier than my house - too hot at times. Also never had to use a communual shower, and the loos are much improved.

I would happily live on one if I didn't have so much stuff thats taken over a 3 bedroom house

Raebeech Fri 15-Mar-13 22:21:46

The idea sounds lovely, but you need to consider the practicalities of it. Contact the Canal & River Trust to find out about moorings in your area and the cost of them. Many places you can only stay for certain periods of time would you want a permanent mooring or to be a 'continuous cruiser' moving every week or so. They will be able to give you costings of boat licences, mooring etc and possibly some marinas where you can moor on a longer term. Also details of where sanitary stations are for the fun jobs of pumping out the loo tank etc...

Some boats are positively luxurious, others well, not so much. Think how you would cope with a winter like the last one on a boat. Personally I'd love to have a nosey round one with a nice little wood burner.

Another idea is to check out the boating publications, Towpath Talk, Canal Boat World, Waterway World etc, they should give you an insight into the living on a boat. is probably a good starter on research.

Hope that helps some.

As for rats - a cat!

Theas18 Fri 15-Mar-13 22:32:41

My friend does. She's got no heating and has been freezing all winter. It's also perpetually damp. I think she's bonkers - well she always has been but I loves her anyway! ( disclaimer I've not been to her boat and she only over here in the autumn. She's saving for a wood burning stove!)

VerySmallSqueak Fri 15-Mar-13 22:37:33

I agree with Saggy in that I would need to know the maintenance costs involved.

And I would definitely not consider it without a woodburner - a house without heating is cold and damp enough so I imagine a boat would be very hard going.

MsWetherwax Fri 15-Mar-13 23:53:40

I work at a marina with residential moorings. We also have a brokerage department if you're interested - feel free to pm me if I can help OP.

seeker Fri 15-Mar-13 23:57:17

Not a wood burner if you can help it- too much like hqrd work. An oil fired Aga is the way to go. You just have to shut your eyes and hum while you pay the oil man!

VerySmallSqueak Sat 16-Mar-13 00:02:38

There's something lovely about woodburners though seeker (though I agree they are bloody hard work). Can't say I'd turn my nose up at an oil fired aga,mind you.

You hum,I'll chop grin

edam Sat 16-Mar-13 00:12:10

ooh, I'd love to live on a narrowboat. Spent many a happy holiday on them. My little sister and I had big plans that when we grew up we'd have a narrowboat and butty with a craft shop in the butty and the boat just for us. Only thing is an actual narrowboat is just that, only 6'10" wide - OK for a holiday but would take some adjusting to for a long term option. A barge on a river or wide canal might be a better option.

I wonder where people get these bizarre ideas about communal showers and similar nonsense from?

edam Sat 16-Mar-13 00:12:42

(maybe they have somehow managed to confuse 'canal' and 'camping'?)

cumfy Sat 16-Mar-13 01:14:55

Seeker, that's a fucking ship! Cooool.grin

Selks Sat 16-Mar-13 02:33:52

Seeker your boat is amazing! smile

Xiaoxiong Sat 16-Mar-13 13:18:00

Yes seeker she is a beaut - now I want to put pictures of mine up too and have a beauty contest wink ours has a black hull, red uppers, hammerite silver rails and wooden decking on the stern deck. Skylights so it's lovely and bright inside.

We don't have an aga, just a woodburner and electric heaters on timers. Our neighbours have diesel central heating and it wasn't insulated well and stank to high heaven.

Maintenance and costs are nothing compared to a real house...since moving onto dry land I think our expenses have tripled!

VerySmallSqueak Sat 16-Mar-13 14:00:27

That is encouraging to know Xiaoxiong.

Now I just need to somehow get the money....

ivykaty44 Sat 16-Mar-13 14:05:23

if you don't have a residentail mooring - which cost a bit - then you will be of no fixed abode, this is fine but for things like driving licence, insurance and banking it can be a problem not have a fixed abode.

If you can get someone else to say you live at their place and use their address you will be fine

Radigund Fri 11-Apr-14 21:49:37

I'm a single mum looking to change life and live on a canal boat with my 12 year old son. My only concern is how would my son go to school as though he is in Secondary School year 7 we need to move 30 miles to start this new lifestyle and will have no permanent address to register, can any one offer advice on this .....

fedupandknackered Fri 11-Apr-14 21:53:53

pm'd you

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