Living Afloat

Many people choose to live afloat on canals, rivers and coasts, in cities, in the country and in harbours. Some cruise continuously, some are permanently moored and the others mix cruising and mooring to suit themselves.

People who live on boats come from all walks of life: families to pensioners, professionals to artists to boat builders. Some live in narrow boats, some in sea-going craft, some in houseboats. Their homes may be owned (possibly with the aid of a loan) or rented.

People are attracted to their lifestyle for many reasons, including:

  • Economy of combining home with pleasure
  • Closeness to Nature

Academic research has shown that residential boat owners are not a sub-culture; actually they are a very diverse group. Often they have a strong sense of their local community and its environment. A suitably equipped narrow boat is becoming more and more popular as a permanent home.

Some things to consider include types of boat, whether you want to continuously cruise the network or have a permanent residence. You will need to think about finding a mooring and boat maintenance.

Take a look at our feature on the pros and cons of living afloat.

Buying a Boat

Find out more about how to go about buying a boat and what to look out for.


Boats require as much maintenance, if not more, than a house. From time to time the boat will have to be craned out of the water or dry docked for maintenance of the underwater hull and if engine servicing is essential.

Further Reading

There is an excellent guide "Living Afloat" written by the Residential Boat Owners Association, which costs £8.00. It is available from

Pros & Cons

IWA's Alison Smedley describes some of the pros and cons of residential boating drawn from her seven years living afloat.

Renting a Boat

Read our article on renting canal boats for anybody thinking that renting a boat is as straightforward as renting a flat.

IWA Policy & Campaigns

Take a look at IWA's policy on residential boating as well as our campaign on mooring issues.