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Harry Monk

Living On A Narrowboat.

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Just an idle Sunday afternoon thought at the moment but I'm wondering if anyone lives/ has lived on a canal narrowboat? I've been shown around a few in the past and it does seem to be a rather idyllic way to live but I really know very little about the practicalities.

I'm imagining the mooring fees and maintenance must be quite high, some ballpark figures would be appreciated, as well as any other advice or thoughts. Ta.

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Insurance is a big cost as youth's like to turn them into floating candles.

Fuel is a big cost too, must be freezing/damp during the colder spells trying to heat all that water, good for the fish I guess.

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Just an idle Sunday afternoon thought at the moment but I'm wondering if anyone lives/ has lived on a canal narrowboat? I've been shown around a few in the past and it does seem to be a rather idyllic way to live but I really know very little about the practicalities.

I'm imagining the mooring fees and maintenance must be quite high, some ballpark figures would be appreciated, as well as any other advice or thoughts. Ta.

Something I had a thought about trying several years ago. from what i've gathered around £4k-£8k per year if you include mooring fees, waterways fees (charged per foot), Boat safety certificate has to be done every few years, boat insurance. then there's boat maintenance and getting the boat in and out of the water every couple of years. Boats depreciate over time as well. Depending on size of boat and how much work you can do yourself will depend which end of the cost scales you're at.

I'd think it would be idyllic most of the time, cold in winter though. have to empty/pump out toilet every few weeks. to be honest if I was to have a narrowboat it would in fact be a widebeam as you'd get more space for the same money, actually could cost slightly less as you could go say 40 foot long by 10 foot wide and have more space than say a 50 foot long by less than 7 foot wide narrowboat. But the widebeams cost more to buy per foot, so that's the trade off.

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In my younger days I knew a few people in the Grand Union Canal boating community. I say community because it really was a subculture consisting of aging drugged out hippies. And tbh it all reminded me more of an Irish travellers camp than an idyllic boating way of life. Living on a boat is light years away from taking a week long cruising holiday down the canal.

Anyway, yes those boats are COLD in winter. It was pretty severe, and definitely anyone with sensitivity to cold could never live on one. Additionally you have to be fit enough to get on the things without falling in the canal. Parking (if any) is often not nearby, so also prepare to carry your shopping etc some distance. Basically you need to be fairly tough & strong for it all. Far more men than women were on those boats.

I considered going the boat route years ago when I was broke and looking for a way out. Personally I think the only reason for considering it is to save money. If you can't live cheaply on one, why on earth would anyone put themselves through such a gritty experience? In the end I decided against, for all the reasons above and more. In a crowded marina you won't have much privacy, and on a canal-side mooring some of the drunk pub revellers walk right past your windows. Internet access can also be a problem.

I didn't set out to write a negative post, but obviously there are a lot of downsides to boat life. Hanging out on one in summer can be fun, and if you get it right you can save some money compared to paying rent. But that's about it.

Unfortunately the UK's ridiculous property prices have also influenced boat prices too, stupidly inflating them.

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I expect it would all add up to costing a lot but could you rent a house somewhere during the winter? Not sure what you'd do with the boat at that time though.

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Owning......... or buying a boat is cheaper than buying a house!

as an ex boat owner (although non - liveaboard) I can say living costs are similar to owning a house!

unless you intend to be a "gypsy boater" (no security, always having to move)

as with everything else in this country its taxed and fee`d to hell

.............the "cheap" boating life train went years ago

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Did it from 1992 to 2004.It's not cold as long as you have a solid fuel or diesel stove.

Gas central heating is exceedingly expensive and ineffective.

Too many boats on the system now.Miles and miles of dossers filling all the moorings around London,Bath and Oxford.

If you don't want to continuously cruise because you enjoy boating it is not worth the hassle.

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My parents did this in Bath about 20 years ago. I know nothing of the costs or operations involved. All I can tell you is that it is not advisable to try and keep a cat on board. They had 2. One went overboard and my poor father was pushed in after it. The cat survived - my dad made up his mind to move into a house.

:P

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I have a boat Harry, a 42 foot cruiser which is quite OK to live aboard, all year if you wanted to. At our moorings we have three guys and a couple resident on their boats. Two of them have narrowboats, the others live in Dutch barges - wide beam (12') canal boats. Expect to pay about £25-30 per foot of length in mooring fees, and about £250 a year insurance. On top of that you have to pay the Environmental Agency or the Waterways board (not sure who the canal folks pay now, we're on a river) about £500 - £1000 a year, depending on which area you are in. Linconshire is cheap, the Thames is expensive, for example.

The best moorings have electric hookup; most narrowboats heat with solid fuel or diesel - the former is much less expensive. A lot cook by gas, but if leccy is available they use that - less condensation. Modern narrowboats have a lot of insulation sprayed in place inside the hull skin, so are quite warm. The big problem is that there is little thermal mass to stabilise temperature, so it can drop sharply at night if you put the heating off.

Sanitation is by holding tank, grey water can usually be discharged into the canal/river. Fresh water is from tanks filled by hose, tedious, especially last winter when the hose stays frozen for days.

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A co-worker did in the 90s. He said it was horribly cold in the winter, and horribly hot and full of flies in the summer.

Which, admittedly, is also a pretty good description of some of the shared houses I lived in.

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I've looked into it, as far as I can tell if you have a mooring it's going to work out at a similar cost to renting.

Continuous cruising might be viable.

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I've looked into it, as far as I can tell if you have a mooring it's going to work out at a similar cost to renting.

Continuous cruising might be viable.

If I've read it correctly, you can moor anywhere for free for up to a fortnight, and then you have to move on, and you can do that indefinitely. That would be what I'd do, rather than looking to live anywhere permanently.

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I've got one in London now instead of a flat, you would struggle to know it wasn't a flat inside. Mooring is what is classed as a leisure mooring theoretically you're not supposed to live there all the time (which I don't - so is ok for me but I'm sure most of the other people moored near me are).

Having got more experience from chatting to other proper boat people I think the actual situation is since British Waterways became a self-funding trust they're reliant on income from moorings and moorings, people live on, generate the most revenue so they are therefore more relaxed about things.

There are bona-fide residential moorings and what defines them is they are recognised by the local council and you would pay council tax on them. The biggest problem comes from councils not liking people living on boats, in their area, without paying their protection racket money. However, from what I can gather the councils flip-flop between hating not getting their tax but if they do charge it then they've got obligations to provide services like bin-emptying so go off the idea.

I have had a bit of a potter around the canals and I'm not sure I'd fancy continuous cruising to save on the mooring fee, it seems like a lot of aggro, even though most, from what I can see, just shuffle up and down the same stretch of water.

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I used to know quite a few people who had bought Dutch barges and even ships and had moored them on the River Thames/ River Lea. Sometimes old small ships are not that expensive, plenty of space but seem to reek of engine oil. I know a photographer that bought an old engineless Lightship.

However the cost of mooring etc kills it due to the length.

A lot of canal boats now are insulated, using that thick foam based insulation which should make them more comfortable all the year round.

There was a canal boat near me for rent, on the Calder and Hebble near Halifax but the rent was more than a house.

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A narrowboat is narrow for a good reason! If required,by a policeman, you have to insert it into a part of your body, with a vicar watching! :blink:

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If I've read it correctly, you can mt a fineoor anywhere for free for up to a fortnight, and then you have to move on, and you can do that indefinitely. That would be what I'd do, rather than looking to live anywhere permanently.

Most places you can only moor for 48 hours. You take pot luck - the bailiff may not come for months, then again, he might come the third day. Mostly, you'll just be reminded to move along, you seriously have to take the p1ss to get a fine.

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Most places you can only moor for 48 hours. You take pot luck - the bailiff may not come for months, then again, he might come the third day. Mostly, you'll just be reminded to move along, you seriously have to take the p1ss to get a fine.

I imagine it depends on the location, if you're in London or somewhere else desirable then they'll enforce it strictly, if you're somewhere out of the way then you're probably safe.

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Never really tempted by the idea - too much hassle and cost.

I think a person would have to have a positive interest in living on a waterway rather than thinking of it as cheap accommodation, and be prepared to do a fair bit of work, but I do currently own an articulated lorry which I live in five days a week and sometimes more, and which is tiny compared to a narrowboat and which I'm constantly tinkering with etc

I think if I did it it would have to be somewhere of post-industrial interest, one of the Northern canal networks, Trent & Mersey maybe rather than the Norfolk Broads etc

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I think a person would have to have a positive interest in living on a waterway rather than thinking of it as cheap accommodation, and be prepared to do a fair bit of work, but I do currently own an articulated lorry which I live in five days a week and sometimes more, and which is tiny compared to a narrowboat and which I'm constantly tinkering with etc

I think if I did it it would have to be somewhere of post-industrial interest, one of the Northern canal networks, Trent & Mersey maybe rather than the Norfolk Broads etc

'ere you go Harry. Bloke who moors his narrowboat near me, good blog detailing what a modern narrowboat looks like, its problem and it's virtues.

http://richardspersonalblog.blogspot.co.uk/

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A piano won't fit and you will need a 6 inch naval gun to deter pirates! :blink:

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A piano won't fit and you will need a 6 inch naval gun to deter pirates! :blink:

Saw a narrow boat in Hungerford with a small grand piano,they can be only 4'5" wide.

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