Continuous cruising

You don’t have to have a long term home mooring to enjoy our canals and rivers on your boat. But as a ‘continuous cruiser’ you must have a long term boat licence.

Canal boats

Continuous cruisers are a big part of the draw to our waterways. They bring a sense of vibrancy to our canals and rivers, as well as more tangible things such as improved towpath security and they’re often the first to spot any maintenance issues.

But what’s it really like?

Hard work and time consuming, almost like having two jobs if you are working. Could you honestly say you'd enjoy trudging along the towpath with firewood or trying to empty sanitary tanks when the rain is horizontal, and the wind chill is -5C, and it’s getting dark? Of course, it’s not like that every day, but you should expect as many depressingly cold, wet and grey days as well as gloriously sunny ones. It’s a more challenging lifestyle than you might first think. It needs good planning and organisation skills to keep your boat well supplied and being a practical hands-on type of person to keep it running.

What rules do I have to follow as a continuous cruiser?

If you live on a boat but must stay in one place or area because of your job, your children’s school or because you have long term medical needs, then continuous cruising probably isn’t the best option for you. You’ll need to consider finding a home mooring.

To be a continuous cruiser (or boater without a home mooring) the rules say:

  • "Boats without a home mooring must be engaged in genuine navigation throughout the period of the licence". Basically, make the effort, 'in good faith', to navigate around our waterways. You’ll need to continually move from place to place on a journey, rather than just shuttling back and forth between places and remaining in a small area. If you can't do this easily, especially where you rely on access to local places such as schools or work, you should find a home mooring
  • "You must not stay moored in the same neighbourhood or locality for more than 14 days". As a rule of thumb, you can stay anywhere on the towpath for up to 14 days – unless there’s a visitor sign with a time limit or you’re near a lock. If you breakdown or can’t move for any reason, get in touch with your local boat licence support officer as soon as possible – our team can help
  • "It is the boater’s responsibility to satisfy the Trust that they meet these requirements". So, make sure you know the rules. Our ‘Guidance for boaters without a home mooring’ explains what is expected from you as a continuous cruiser. You can also read our continuous cruiser FAQs

How much will my boat licence cost?

As a continuous cruiser you need to have either a six months or twelve months long term licence. To renew or buy a new licence, go to our long term licence page for everything you need to know.

What happens if I don’t follow the rules?

Our boat licence support team makes sure you do indeed continuously cruise. They travel up and down our waterways monitoring which kilometre of waterway boats are on.

If you don’t move far enough, or you stay in one place for too long, then we take the following steps to either get you back on the move or (as a very last resort) remove your boat from the water.

  1. First, we’ll restrict your licence to a trial six months to give you a chance to improve
  2. If you continue to break the rules we might refuse a future licence without a home mooring, but we’ll always contact you beforehand to discuss our reasons and concerns, and to give you as much time as possible to remedy the situation and put a supportive plan in place
  3. Ultimately, it’s important to understand that, while we don’t like doing it, if you consistently break the rules we might have to remove your boat from the water. We don’t ever do this lightly and it’s our last resort after sending you clear written warnings. So if you’re struggling to follow the rules, or you know a vulnerable boater who needs a little more support, call our support team

Despite the hard work, continuous cruising can be an incredibly rewarding lifestyle. It’s your responsibility to know the rules but, that said, if you’re considering it, talk to your local licence support officer who’ll be happy to run through the pros and cons.

Also try the Residential Boat Owners Association – they're a great source of advice and information.

Last date edited: 23 September 2021