We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.

Living on a boat

Living on a boat can be wonderful. You can tailor the experience to precisely fit your needs; from a wide variety of boat types through to location and lifestyle. Treat this page as a signpost, directing you to detailed information about all of these choices. Ultimately, the important thing is to make sure you do your homework before taking the leap!

Although it’s not always the case, for many liveaboard boaters it all starts with a boating holiday. First the holiday, then perhaps part-ownership of a boat progressing to buying their own boat and, finally, living on a boat.

Of course, some living aboard didn’t do any of this. Some just leapt in at the deep end – hopefully not literally! What both have in common is that they had to make the same series of decisions before living on their boat.

You'll find lots of useful information below but it's also worth checking out this excellent, independent, website written by boaters for those considering making the move afloat.

Long term mooring or long term cruising?

Perhaps the biggest decision is whether to live on your boat at a long term residential mooring or to continuously cruise. Both have their benefits, and their costs. In summary, if there’s a residential mooring available in the right location and the right price then this would suit you if you have land ties in that particular area. If this sounds more like your cup of tea, you’ll need to start the search for a mooring.

If you’ve got the wanderlust bug and can commit to moving to a new place every 14 days, ranging over a reasonably wide distance before returning, then you might consider the life of a continuous cruiser. More information can be found on the continuous cruiser webpage. 

If you're planning on continuously cruising then it's best to get an idea of what range of movement we'd expect you to be doing over the course of your licence period.

Owner-occupier or tenant?

Just as you expect a land-based landlord to comply with regulations concerning safety and the like, it’s no different if the property happens to be a boat. Unfortunately the majority of people renting boats to live on are doing this below the radar, putting themselves at risk so we can’t recommend this option.  Read more on our renting a boat to live on page.

Age and type of boat

You don’t have to fork out for a brand new boat. Buying a second hand boat is a good way to get more features for your money. As well as saving money, you can get afloat within days, without waiting for your ideal boat to be built. To find your dream boat, a great starting place would be one of the specialist inland boating magazines.

Waterways World and Canal Boat magazine are both available online, by subscription or can be found in your local newsagent. Towpath Talk is another worthwhile read to find more out about buying a boat. You can subscribe to it or pick up a free copy in most marinas or our offices.

Budget will usually steer decisions if you’ve decided to buy new a boat with a view to living aboard. That said, the choice is vast. You might opt for a broad beamed (wide) Dutch barge with a spacious interior and, if you chose, luxurious fixtures and fittings. Alternately, you might be spending a lot of your time cruising rivers and go for a Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) – commonly known as fibreglass – river cruiser.

These choices are comparable to the ones you make when buying a car. Think of it as choosing between a hatchback and a estate or MPV and saloon. We’ll take this analogy a bit further now – once you’ve picked the general type, you’ll then need to think about the sub-type. With a car it might be you pick the 1.6 litre diesel with sunroof over the petrol, no sunroof, model.

It’s slightly more subtle with boats. You can choose different stern types, from traditional through to fully-enclosed Dutch barge style. The style of boat you pick will be dependent on a lot of things so make sure you talk this through the boat builder.

Old hands make light work

Whatever your circumstances, even if you’ve been a leisure boater for years, if you’re considering living a boat then take advice from those who are already doing it. The Residential Boat Owners’ Association is a good place to learn more. Of course, you could also just wander down your nearest towpath and grab a quick chat with an old hand.

Last date edited: 7 July 2015