There are almost 35,000 canal boats on Britain’s inland waterways*, but it’s quite difficult to estimate how many of those are floating homes. I was recently interviewed by a journalist who seemed to want to find out what ‘type’ of people are living within the boating community. The truth is that we are just as diverse as the community living ashore. Live-aboard boaters include middle-aged divorcees, retired couples, young professionals, people on low incomes, people ‘down on their luck’ and canal heritage enthusiasts. It can include people seeking an alternative lifestyle, or people seeking a cheaper lifestyle. Some boaters are foreign tourists discovering England and some people are able to choose a nomadic lifestyle because they work from home.

If you think you may be one of these people you need to consider the challenges. Confined space and a lack of storage will mean de-cluttering your possessions before moving aboard. Have you taken into account the extra chores such as disposing of your own domestic waste and sewage, and keeping your water tank topped up? Are you ready for an unpredictable electric supply that depends on the engine being maintained in good working order? Your gas will be purchased in bottles and the changing price of red diesel will affect your home budget. If your work or personal commitments make continuously cruising impractical you will need to find a mooring.

If you have considered all of these points then you are ready to take the plunge. Imagine the emotional freedom of releasing so many material possessions to move into a cosy narrowboat. Consider the sense of independence and achievement knowing that you are responsible for supplying your own gas and electric, and the environmental awareness you’ll gain when physically managing your own waste disposal. You’ll feel more connected with nature and feed swans and ducks from your kitchen window. You will learn to be economical with water and you may like to learn new skills such as marine engine maintenance, boat refurbishment or painting roses and castles. Will you exchange the gym for cycling or running on the towpath? Will you enjoy being part of a community in a marina or will you consider a new career as a roving canal trader?

When you have thought through all of these things and worked out your budget it’s time to begin browsing the variety of canal boats for sale at Boatshed Grand Union. If you’re already a leisure boater looking to exchange your current boat for a live aboard we would be happy to take your boat on brokerage for you.

Peggy Melmoth

*Source: British Waterways website