In the boaters discussion groups on Facebook I often see requests for advice, from those planning to live aboard in London. A fleeting glimpse of a colourful canal boat passing through Camden Lock promises an alternative view of the capital. But what do you need to know before you make that decision to live aboard?

1) Genuine Continuous Cruising

Continuously cruising is more difficult than it was 10 years ago in London; the number of boats has increased, visitor moorings are overpopulated and winter moorings have been reduced in number. Therefore one boater on Facebook advised, “Invent a time machine and go back six years. You should be able to find somewhere to tie up!”

Some folks believe there is no room for any more canal boats in London, but they are possibly thinking of the more popular central London locations. There is plenty of towpath mooring space out west at Greenford for example, and beyond.You could also consider buying a boat with a transferable mooring for your first year, while you get used to the lifestyle.

Check the Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring before you decide to continuously cruise.

2) Relocation

If you buy a boat outside of London make sure you have plenty of time for the journey to bring it into London and perhaps make it a holiday. You can calculate the time needed for the cruise using lock-miles, but allow for unexpected delays, such as bad weather. Count each lock as one mile and add the distance in actual miles to make lock miles. Then divide the total by 3(mph) to give the total time in hours needed to travel the distance. You can also calculate cruising routes and times using the CanalPlan AC website.

3) Financial Planning

Don’t spend your whole budget on the boat. Keep some savings for engine repairs and unexpected problems. Even if a boat has been well cared for you won’t know what needs doing until you have lived aboard for a bit.

4) Get a Survey!

The most important thing to check when buying a steel canalboat is hull thickness. Get a survey on the boat before you buy. The buyer chooses and pays the surveyor; and this investment buys you piece of mind. A survey can range from a simple hull check, to a full inspection of all systems. If there are any serious structural issues, (for example needing re-plating) this can be a reason to either request a reduction in price, or abandon the purchase all together. Also, do not buy a boat with the intention of repainting it yourself, or refitting it yourself unless you have thoroughly researched the cost and challenge of taking on such a project!

5) Buy from a Broker

Beware of buying privately from a free listing website, or auction site, as there are some scams about. If the sale is managed by a broker you can be sure that the broker has the rights to sell the boat, and you can be confident that your deposit will be refunded if the work deemed necessary at survey is greater than some percentage of the boat price. A Boatshed broker will advise and hand hold you through every stage. We can also offer advice on any negotiations. Read more about our boat buying service.

Image: Narrowboat 40ft for sale with Mooring In Prime Central London Location.


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