The Secret Of Living Cheaply In London
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Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 3:01pm

Noticing A Change

We have noticed a trend in the past 18 months of young people purchasing narrow boats from us with the intention of cruising to London and living on the canal system in the city.

An amazing 3rd of all narrow boats sold from our Marina each year make their way down to London. This alternative living accommodation is allowing young people to get their foot on the property ladder, and have an investment in the future.
Young people who are looking to leave home and find their own accommodation and independence are choosing to buy a narrow boat. Affording a bricks and mortar property has just become too expensive for many. Young professional people are now choosing to live on the water ways creating a wonderful way of life with no ties and enjoying the experience living and cruising around the many miles of canals in London.
It is estimated that there is around 100,000 narrow boats currently in London already, with easy access to commute via the underground getting around London couldn’t be easier, many Londoners also use a bicycle to get around the city.
Being able to cruise around the canals and rivers of the city enables young people to enjoy and experience the different areas of London, staying in trendy and sort after places such as; Little Venice, Camden Town, Richmond, Uxbridge and Islington to name just a few. The communities are very friendly and people tend to moor in groups creating small tight knit communities. Mooring together also makes living on the waterways a safer place.
Becoming a continuous cruiser means you don’t need to buy a permanent mooring licence and as long as you cruise every two weeks you are able to continue to enjoy living on the water ways. If you wanted to consider a permanent mooring the cost will be determined on the length of your boat, but as an example a 60 foot mooring in a popular London dockland marina would cost around £6,000 per annum. This is still a very cost effective solution for living in a major city.

With London property prices rising to record levels people are opting to livaboard as it’s an affordable option. As a guideline even renting a one bedroom flat in London can cost anywhere from £850 to £1,500 per week and a single room in a shared situation costing as much as £600 a month, prices obviously depend on the area you are living. On top of the rent there are all the other additional expenses to consider; poll tax, water rates, electricity and gas.
When living aboard all you have to pay is a cruising licence to the Canal and River Trust  and cover the running costs of diesel to heat your boat. There is of course the usual maintenance costs involved to owning a boat, but not the overheads like the examples above, making day to day living very reasonable in a city location.
There is now a growing community of young people living on the waterways not just in London, but across the whole of the country. With over 3000 miles of canals in the UK there is plenty of room to accommodate this new trendy style of living.

What To Expect From A Narrow Boat

Depending on how much you spend on a narrow boat will determine the spec, but basically buying a boat for around £20,000 will be like living home from home, with all the modern amenities of living in a brick home; central heating, hot water, electricity, washing machine, fully fitted kitchen with fridge freezer, cooker, microwave etc, bath or shower room and toilet.
And the biggest garden you can imagine!

Typical Interior Of A Narrow Boat Will Include:

  • Lounge Area
  • Kitchen/Diner
  • Bedroom
  • Bathroom/Shower room

Paying For Your Dream

Everyone’s financial circumstances are different, but there are plenty of options to finance a purchase. If you are lucky enough to have the money in the bank then a straight cash deal can be made, but for those needing additional finance there are a few other solutions available:

The Bank Of Mum And Dad - Many parents are in a position to release some equity from the home property or to take out a 2nd mortgage. This enables them to help get their child get onto the property ladder, giving them peace of mind their child has a secure base and also at the same time they have an investment. Investing money in a narrow boat also gives the parents additional accommodation. Many parents are more than happy to help finance a purchase rather than seeing their child paying out money on rental every month and have nothing to show for it in years to come.

Personal Loan From A High Street Bank – Below is an example of the repayments you would expect to pay for a personal loan from one high street bank. (These figures were calculated and correct at the time and date of this article).

Marine Mortgage – Can be organised through a company such as RoyScot Larch this type of funding to buy a boat is the same as purchasing a house with a mortgage. You will need a deposit typically 20% of the purchase price, for most boat purchases your Inland Waterways loan will need to be secured against the boat you purchase. More detailed information can be obtained from RoyScot Larch on 01235 438280

Useful Information

The London Regional office of British Waterways will send you two useful guides free of charge. “Boaters Guide to Moorings in the London Region”, telephone 020 7286 6101.

Read About Pete and Sarah’s experience of buying a narrow boat

1 Why did you choose to buy a narrow boat?

"Two friends of ours bought a Dutch barge to live on, in London, two or three years ago. Every time I went to see them I thought it was the best way to live, and anytime they were away we offered to look after it. It seemed to be a way of living in London but moving away from roads and nearer open space".

2 How did you find the purchase process at Whilton Marina?
"I can't speak more highly of buying from Whilton Marina. Looking at the boats was a very relaxed experience, we were just handed the keys and could peruse at our leisure. The offer process was pressure free and, once we'd bought it, they took the pressure of negotiating any maintenance to the boat, organising work to be done etc. upon themselves."

3 Can you tell us more about the community you will be living in?
"London canals have become much busier in the last year. The cost of rent is, for many people, unmanageable and it is demoralizing to work extremely hard to only just cover costs. So the community of boaters is a mixed demographic. There are the long term boaters, those that have been living on the canals for years, a diverse array of bohemian types who don't mind living in small spaces and think that there might be more to life than work, and people in smarter boats who perhaps are on more substantial incomes but still can't afford a house and want a place of their own."

4 What do you consider the main benefits of living on a boat?
"A huge benefit is the financial aspect mentioned above. Sarah and I can have a place of our own rather than sharing a small room in a shared house. But what initially attracted us remains. We're much more in touch with the seasons, nearer to open space, aware of the energy we use and aware of the waste we create as we don't enjoy the same conveniences in place in a house."

5 What was the cruising experience like from Whilton to London?
"Cruising from Whilton to London was epic, in fact still is as we're still doing it. We're having to do it in stages as both of us have to work, so it's taking some time."

6 What are your occupations?
"I'm a musician and Sarah is a Landscape Architect"

7 Would you recommend this life style and Whilton Marina to other people?
"I would recommend it and, in fact, many of our friends are following suit. There seems to be little option for many. London will soon be unaffordable to many of the people who make it such a vibrant place to live. People have to live further and further out and travel further and further to find work. Not a recipe for a happy city. Whilton were great and a really nice bunch of chaps."