Find a mooring before you buy a boat
Finding somewhere to berth your boat can be extremely difficult. Unless you intend to continuously cruise the inland waterways network, you need to find a mooring before buying a boat.
Offline moorings, such as marinas and basins, are generally run by businesses. More expensive than online moorings, they do include facilities such as water, toilets, sanitary disposal, showers, a diesel pump, electricity, coal, gas and WiFi. Some may also have boatyards, chandlery shops, basic security, transport links and car parking.
Apart from the cost, possible downsides include the fact that some marinas may have a waiting list for their berths. A few marinas may offer a ‘caretaker’ (residential) berth, but these are obviously rare.
Online moorings along the main line of a canal are usually run by the navigation authority, or in some cases, local farmers who set up moorings along their land. They tend to cost less than offline moorings because there aren’t as many – or any – facilities. Apart from the cost, advantages of online moorings include being closer to nature, heritage and often beautiful scenery.
Some moorings are available along the towpath side but these lack privacy and any degree of security. Those on the non-towpath (off-side) are preferable and will have some security depending on the access, fencing and gating arrangements.
You could buy or lease a length of land alongside the waterways but remember that this does not necessarily mean that you have rights to moor a boat there. There may be planning restrictions and on canals you will still have to pay the navigation authority for mooring. These can be referred to as ‘end of garden moorings’ or ‘farmers’ field moorings’.
On rivers the situation is different as riparian owners generally have the right to moor alongside their land. Remember that rivers go up and down so you will need suitable mooring arrangements to allow for this and you may not be able to get to your boat in flood conditions. In either case you should consult with the navigation authority first before committing to a mooring.
If you intend to live on your boat, you’ll need a suitable mooring (unless you intend to continuously cruise the waterways). Most residential moorings do not have planning approval for residential use and although this may not be a problem, you should be aware and take advice.
Some residential mooring operators require boats to be away from the mooring for a certain time each year or for you to have an address elsewhere. You may need to pay Council Tax and, if appropriate, Housing Benefits could contribute towards mooring fees.
The majority of residential berths are based on short term mooring agreements, which can be terminated at short notice.