Alternative Living - Narrowboat

Is Narrowboat Living For You? - Episode 2

Onboard the Narrowboat

In the first episode of “is narrowboat living for you?” I outlined some of the most basic day-to-day tasks related to boat life whilst highlighting some of the main associated running costs that need to be considered when contemplating boat ownership. Once you have made the big initial investment of actually purchasing a boat, one of the most important and potentially biggest ongoing annual running costs is that of a mooring.

Now when it comes to mooring your boat there are several subtly different options to consider, all of which have an impact upon your overall annual expenditure. What follows should not be taken as a definitive list of Mooring options. Mooring facilities, canal capacity and individual arrangements can be very fluid and as such vary widely. This then should be considered a high-level overview guide that demonstrates the most common types of mooring options available, alongside the associated costs you can expect to have to factor into your annual budget as a boat owner.

#1. Mooring at a Marina

Mooring at a marina or close has some significant advantages over mooring out on the cut, including electric hook up, quick and easy access to Elsan facilities and freshwater points. Many marinas also have a number of additional amenities that can make boat life a little easier including car parking, laundry, showers and toilets. Some larger marinas can also have cafes, bars and restaurants either on the site itself or nearby. Small onsite grocery stores selling basic provisions are also commonplace at many residential sites. Many full-time liveaboard boaters happily live at marina moorings all year round whilst others use them as a safe haven throughout the winter months, which is also useful if you need access to maintenance and service facilities like engine mechanics, engineers and dry docks. Whilst on the face of it mooring at a marina does provide a number of advantages over morning out on the cut, there are also some disadvantages. Firstly, marina moorings are generally busy hives of activity where space and complete privacy can be at a premium. Moorings have a tendency to be tightly packed in very little free space between other boats. The likelihood in a marina mooring is that your view from both sides of your boat will likely to be that of another boat and likewise for them, so you better hope for good-mannered well behaved neighbours. Another downside of marina moorings is the increased noise and activity from both higher numbers of residents and nearby boat-related businesses and leisure activities. Residential marina moorings are the middle ground between no permanent mooring and a dedicated Residential morning out on the cut. Marina moorings can cost from £1700 upwards of £2500 dependent upon boat size, location, marina facilities and availability.

#2. Residential moorings

Permanent residential moorings are highly sought after but mean you get a dedicated spot on the cut that’s all yours in return for an annual fee. It provides the security and comfort of a permanent place to return to after travelling or you can simply moor there permanently without time restrictions of having to move your boat every couple of weeks to remain within the canal and river trusts mooring regulations. Once again costs are largely governed by location, availability and boat size. Expect annual mooring fees to be in the region of £2000+ per annum.

#3. Non-residential moorings.

Non-residential moorings are very similar in nature to those of permanent residential moorings on the cut with the explicit exception that you are unable to reside on them. Non-residential moorings are ideal for those not wanting to live abroad but seek full-time mooring facilities for a boat that’s used primarily for leisure usage, for example, day trips, weekend breaks or travelling holidays. Typical costs for non-residential moorings start at around £1,500 per year. Again these costs are dependent upon location, availability and nearby facilities.

Narrowboat Interior

#4. Temporary moorings

Temporary moorings as the name implies are designated places along the canal where you can moor your boat temporarily without cost. Now before you get too excited at the prospect of free mooring, restrictions apply. The canal and river trust guidelines and regulations can differ from canal to canal but the general rules are as follows. In areas close to busy marinas your mooring time is normally restricted to 48 hours. Residential and temporary mooring areas and seasonal timetable restrictions are normally clearly marked on the quayside so check before mooring. Other areas out on the cut allow you to moor your boat freely for periods of up to two weeks without charge, after which time you must continue with onward travel. Most canal and riverboat regulations stipulate that you have to travel at least 30 miles per annum to ensure you remain compliant. The canal and river trust monitor boat movements in several ways. On canals with manned bridges boat names and numbers are registered as you enter and exit sections of the canal. On canals with unmanned locks, the trust has operatives who travel the length and breadth of the canals by bike or on foot who register boat names and numbers along the way. If you overstay in any given location you will quickly get an email from the canal and rivers trust notifying you of the fact and asking you to move on. Those who continue or continually breach the temporary mooring regulations will have their boat licences restricted or in extreme cases rescinded completely. Having your license withdrawn automatically removes your entitlement to legally travel on the canal your license pertains too. Once a license has been withdrawn you will be required to remove your boat from the canal. Whilst temporary moorings are a great option for full-time liveaboard boaters and holidaymakers alike there are some drawbacks. Firstly you will have to be moving every two weeks, which may be no problem for those who love to travel and cruise the cut but not so appealing for those who enjoy the comfort and security of a more permanent place to call home. Secondly, in the summer months, temporary mooring spaces on certain canals and popular tourist locations can be limited and at a premium.

Living On A Narrowboat

In a nutshell

When it comes down to it, the type of mooring you need will come down to your own specific requirements based upon how, when and where you use your boat. For those who simply use their boats for short leisure trips and holidays cruising the cut, a non-residential mooring makes good sense. For those who live onboard full time but need a central location to be close to work and travel links a permanent marina mooring could be the way to go. The reality for most full-time boat dwellers is that they tend to leverage both permanent mornings alongside temporary ones. Some choosing temporary moorings in the summer and permanent moorings in the winter or use temporary moorings in the winter when space and availability are greater and a marina or residential mooring in the summer months when space is at more of a premium. Again the type of mooring you choose will come down to your own specific circumstances and requirements. The great thing about moorings is their infinite versatility with it being relatively simple to chop and change in line with the dynamics of your lifestyle with little long term liability or ongoing cost and commitmen

That’s it for this episode. In the next episode, I will be looking at more of the real world practicalities (the good, bad & ugly) of everyday boat life involved with cruising the cut.

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