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Top tips for narrowboat life


With rising rents and huge deposits required for mortgages it’s perhaps no surprise that an increasing number of people are exploring the potential of a life afloat. Already, over 15,000 people live on our waterways, the equivalent of a town the size of Reigate, and the numbers are rising. Experienced canal chroniclers Nick Corble and Allan Ford offer a practical guide to the pros and cons of joining this community, known as liveaboards. Here, they share with us their ten top tips to becoming a successful member of that community:

Choose your spot – Residential moorings, especially in big cities, are hard to come by and can come at a cost, while rural moorings carry their own considerations. It’s possible to live afloat without a permanent mooring, but there are rules; so start with the mooring.

A boat is not a rung on the housing ladder – Be clear, boats tend to be a depreciating asset, so choose your craft carefully and be aware that if a house on land is your ultimate goal you need to see it less as an investment and more of an opportunity to save for a deposit.

It’s a lifestyle choice – In the same vein, if your only motivation is to reduce your outgoings you will probably become unstuck, becoming a liveaboard cuts across all aspects of life.

Get practical – there’s always something that needs doing, tightening, checking or diagnosing, you need to be able to turn your hand to a range of skills, even if it means taking a few courses.

Be prepared to lose visibility – Whilst you won’t become invisible to the rest of the world, you will inevitably be below the radar of aspects of modern life you may take for granted, such as access to healthcare, or even being able to vote.

Tune into the seasons – The summer is short, the winter long. Learn to embrace nature: its bounty when foraging and its anger when the next storm is forecast.

Get active – Be prepared to become active rather than passive on services we tend to take for granted on the land such as water, internet access, sewerage, electricity

Declutter and keep a tight ship – They are called narrowboats for a reason, so you’ll only have room for the essentials and neatness will become a necessity, not a luxury.

Learn to share – You can escape on board, but you’ll also learn to value sociability, the sharing of experiences, tips, knowledge, time together, even food when you’ve run out of milk!

Stay safe – Life aboard brings a whole new set of potential dangers, be prepared for when they happen, or better still, become aware enough to avoid them in the first place.

For the aspiring liveaboard, keeping afloat means more than just staying on the water. It also covers reaching a sustainable balance financially, physically and mentally to achieve a way of life that to allows them to live the dream of living on our waterways, rather than allowing it to become a nightmare.

By Nick Corble and Allan Ford

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