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Living On A Narrowboat In The UK

Some of the 'living on a boat' emails we have received recently - Answers given in good faith

Living on a boat in Yorkshire

Dear CC,

I shall be moving to the Leeds area within the next 3 to 6 months. I will want to rent some suitable ( self contained ) accommodation. I shall be mobile hence if there are any possibilities for a lower rent due to my locating outside of Leeds then I would be interested in that possibility. I understand that there is a canal network nearby to Leeds hence the idea of renting (long term) a narrow boat appeals to me. My stay in the Leeds area is likely to be from 1 ½ years to 3 years. Are you able to make suggestions at this stage? And also an indication of the rent to pay? Regards K J

Hi K,

I wouldn’t say there is no chance but finding a narrowboat with a residential mooring for rent is highly unlikely as these are highly sought after by boaters for themselves.

If you go down the non-residential; long term moorings route then you will have the problem that you are not legal for 24/7 occupancy of the boat, of access and lack of services: water, sewer, electricity rubbish disposal, mail etc.

If you go down the permanently cruising route, then you have to keep moving at least every 24 hours to 14 days depending where you moor.

If you have had a holiday on a narrowboat then you have some idea of the concept of living aboard if you haven’t then I would recommend you take one.

I know this doesn’t sound very positive but I meet hundreds of people each year who ‘like the idea of living aboard’ but would never be able to hack it as it’s not necessarily the idyllic life that everyone assumes.

If I haven’t changed your mind by now, get back in touch and I’ll discuss further.

Kind regards Graham


Hi K,

The hiring of the boat may well be legal but the validity of the mooring of said craft is usually the problem.

There are different classes of legal moorings – Here are the ones we know :

Residential – BW or other Waterways Licence usually required even in a private marina - Where tenure has been approved by the local council planning department - you are liable for council tax (even if you don’t actually receive any services)

Long Term Moorings – BW or other Waterways Licence usually required even in a private marina – LTM are for the boat not the occupants! You may be permitted to stay aboard for periods of time, say; two weeks at a time - dependant on the individual mooring permit.

Visitor Moorings (Signposted) - BW or other Waterways Licence required – for periods of time from as little as 30minutes up to 14 days or more.

Unofficial Moorings - BW or other Waterways Licence required – Mooring on the towpath outside of Residential, Long Term or Visitor moorings. You may be permitted to stay for up to 14 days, dependant on local by-laws.

The best people to speak to ate your local waterways office (BW or other as applicable).

Living on a boat - some practicalities


I have found your web site and have been reading about those who 'sold up' and now live on their boats, and mention is made of residential moorings which can provide a postal address.

How about doctors services? Do you register with a local GP? Do GPs accept permanent boaters?

Thank you G H

Hi G,

We are still registered with the doctor we had in our last residence town of T**** at one of our daughter’s address. Our two daughters live within a couple of miles of T**** so they come and take us to the doctors as and when (desperately) required.

If you have your NHS Medical Card and proof of identity you can use any NHS doctor as a temporary patient.

We also use NHS Direct by phone and dispensing Pharmacists for queries about things, lumps and bumps! Hope this helps?

Kind regards Graham

Looking at living on a boat

Hi CC,

I am considering “selling up” and moving onto a narrow boat for good.

I am reading your website with great interest and would really appreciate as much help & advice as you can possibly afford or point me in the right direction of where to start. I want to be based around the Leeds area due to work commitments.

Where on earth do I begin? Best Regards, A R

Hi A,

I think we would need to know a bit more about you before we can really give ‘best advice’ but here’s a starter.

Walk the towpath and talk to boaters – they will usually answer any questions you have.

Have you ever been on a narrowboat for a week or more? If you haven’t then hire a 60 foot or longer narrowboat for at least 1 week - we recommend 2 weeks cruising in the area where you are planning to ‘live’ – just to make sure you are not just falling in love with the idea.

If you are looking to stay in on one place – you will need to find official residential or long term moorings where the owners will permit you to live aboard. (Do this before you do anything else! – If you can’t find ‘residential’ moorings in your area – you’re scuppered before you start!) Make sure you have a mobile phone signal actually on the proposed moorings!

Decide what you are going to need aboard your boat: Central heating / coal fire / combination.

Washing machine, tumble drier, fridge, freezer, microwave, hairdryer, TV, computer (internet through mobile internet service provider – 3G) then decide how you’re going to power them!

Visit a couple of boat shows and talk to heating and power management companies.

Let us know when you have specific questions.

Kind regards Graham