Find a mooring before you buy a boat
Unless you intend to continuously cruise the inland waterways network, you will need to find a mooring for it. Finding somewhere suitable to berth your boat can take a bit of research.
Offline moorings, such as marinas and basins, are generally run by businesses. More expensive than online moorings, they include facilities such as water, toilets, sanitary disposal, showers, a diesel pump, electricity, coal, gas and Wi-Fi. Some may also have boatyards, chandlery shops, basic security, transport links and car parking. Some boat clubs have off-line moorings too.
Apart from the cost, possible downsides include the fact that some marinas may have a waiting list for their berths. Some marinas have planning permission for residential moorings, which are likely to be more expensive, and a few marinas may offer a ‘caretaker’ (residential) berth, but these are rare.
Online moorings along the main line of a canal are usually run by the navigation authority or a boat club, or in some cases, by local farmers who set up moorings alongside 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.
Moorings on the non-towpath (off-side) are preferable and will have some security depending on the access, fencing and gating arrangements. Some moorings are available along the towpath side, but these lack privacy and any degree of security.
You could buy or lease a length of land alongside the waterways, but 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 where they own the land under their side of the river. Rivers are prone to flood and varying water levels, 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). Permanent residential moorings usually require planning approval, so you should always make enquiries to check the mooring offered to you is legitimate.
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, but Housing Benefits can contribute towards mooring fees.
Residential berths are often based on short-term mooring agreements that can be terminated at little notice – it is important to read and understand the ‘small print’ of any agreement.