The amount of people permanently living on houseboats such as narrowboats and barges has been steadily increasing in recent years. In fact, around a quarter of the boats you see on the UK waterways consist of the owner’s primary home. Many others are used as second homes with people sharing their time between on-board living and on-land living.
There are several reasons why more and more people are choosing this alternative way of life. The fact that living on a narrowboat in a city can be significantly cheaper than living in an ordinary home is chief among them.
As is to be expected of the capital, London is the most expensive place to live in the UK, but not if you live on a boat. In fact there are somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 people using boats on the capital’s hundred miles of waterways, with around two thirds of those permanently docked at various marinas.
Continuous Cruising Lowers the Cost of Living Even More
UK boat owners who constantly travel around either a city’s waterways or up and down the country’s 2,000 or so miles of canal networks, can dock pretty much wherever they please for up to two weeks at a time. This ‘continuous cruising’ option makes living on a boat even cheaper as there is no charge for mooring, so long as you move on every couple of weeks.
With the lower annual cost of running a boat including covering a licence and basic insurance, it’s easy to see why boat living is becoming a more attractive proposition for people who are priced out of owning their own land-based homes, especially in a city like London where house prices have risen well over 80% over the last eight years or so.
In fact, the number of continuous cruisers in Britain has quadrupled in just seven years. In 2010, there were 413 continuous cruisers around the capital’s waterways alone, with that number heading way over 1,600 by the end of last year.
Quality of Life Also Cited as a Primary Reason for Boat Living
While the financial aspect is a huge one for many people who live on boats, it is not always the main reason. Last year the Financial Times published a feature on boat living and the reasons for living on a boat. While the money aspect was right up there in importance, the general way of living also featured highly.
“Waterside living is wonderful,” wrote the feature’s author, the boat dwelling Paul Miles. “Rippling reflections of sunlight patterning your ceiling; feeding ducks from your window; diving off your front porch for a swim.”
With such testimony along with the obvious financial benefits, it’s certainly understandable why narrowboat living is on the rise.