For some the thought of a life on the quiet UK waterways or even on the open sea is an idyllic and romantic aim. It conjures up images of experiencing nature while living in the relative comfort of a bricks and mortar abode.
Houseboats are also seen by some as a potentially cheaper way of getting on that presently oh so slippery property ladder.
In 2009 the Residential Boat Owners Association estimated that about 15,000 lived on the rivers, canals and estuaries of the UK. With some staying in one permanent mooring and others continually cruising.
However, there is a lot to consider before following those dreams.
The first consideration is what type of boat do I go for? There are several different types:
Houseboats are basically a mobile home structure placed atop a non-powered but towable pontoon. They are usually found on permanent moorings.
Dutch or English barges, which were used to navigate the larger of the UK waterways.
Lighters, which are wider than barges and were used to take cargo up and down rivers.
Cruisers, vessels that were either just designed to cruise the waterways or old lifeboats, hire vessels, luxury yachts or even ex-naval vessels.
Motor Fishing Vessels (MFV), which are usually too large and deep drafted for use on inland waterways but are ideal for coastal waters.
The Narrow Boat, which is probably the picture that most people have in their head when considering this alternative form of accommodation. They are usually 7 ft wide and can come in at up to 70 ft in length.
Prices vary greatly. You can get a flavour of these from Apollo Duck.
Then comes the really important factor. Unless you are intending to be continuously cruising you will need a permanent mooring of your own. These do not come cheap as they are relatively few and far between. This consideration could be the one stopper to your entire dream. You may need to get on a waiting list and these can cost circa £250 pcm upwards.
There is also the question of finance. Unless you have the ready cash finding a lender isn't that easy. Because the purchase is transportable lenders will also charge for the extra risk involved. They will also insist on surveys and that the vessel is correctly certificated. There are specialist lenders in this area such as Collidge and Partners and Barclays Marine Finance. Or you could opt to mortgage / remortgage your current house and rent it out using the money raised to purchase the boat. Or maybe use your plastic friend.
As a boat is classed in law as a 'chattel' it makes it easier to buy and sell than a house. But you will need to make sure the person selling it is the true owner and also have a survey done that means having it lifted out of the water and can cost about £2,000. This should be repeated every 5 years or so during your ownership to ensure everything continues to be 'shipshape'.
You will also need to insure the vessel (obviously) for a mandatory £1,000,000 minimum and have a Boat Safety Scheme certificate as well as a British Waterways Licence to cruise the canals and rivers.
There are also the usual 'utility' bills as well as running and maintenance costs for the engine etc. And no, you are not usually exempt from council tax!
A lot to be considered by the newbie. This style of living may well suit some but should only be undertaken after a lot of thought and research. It may be a good option to rent one for a while before deciding whether the lifestyle is for you.