Why Living On A Narrowboat Is Not The Answer To Mortgage Free Life

Being the extremely boaty person that I am, I spend a bit of time on the canal and boating forums (Boat nerd alert). I’ve never been brave enough to post, but I do love to lurk and observe. Recently I’ve witnessed a spike in topics in which the poster discusses wanting to purchase a boat to escape sky high rents, or the impossibility of a mortgage.


That scares me, it also makes me a total hypocrite. One of our key reasonings in getting the boat was an inability to get a mortgage for the type of property which would suit our lifestyle. The original plan, to have the boat for a few years at the same time as saving with the aim of purchasing said perfect property, seemed ideal. Only what we failed to realise is that our lifestyle, which we could not see fitting into a studio flat in the centre of a town, slotted perfectly into boat life.

We were incredibly naive in thinking that the boat would offer us something different to a studio flat, it does in all the immaterial ways such as living environment, it doesn’t in the material ways such as living costs and asset depreciation.

We got lucky, we stumbled into boat life and it happened to fit with us, to a point where imagining life another way is honestly, a little weird. I mean what would life be without a Friday night game of water tank roulette?

See boat life isn’t just life on a smaller scale, it can be an absolute pile of tosh at times and you need to actually enjoy it to make it work without driving you insane.


There are so many things which are more than half so much worth doing, so many in fact I could spend the average 600 words of this blog listing them. To give you a few examples, having consistently warm running water, being clean, being able to switch the kettle on at the same time as anything else electrical, taking 30-minute showers, not suspecting every drip you hear to be a precursor of imminent sinkage.

I can’t help but think the rise of the Daily Mail ‘Couple escape sky high mortgage by moving onto 60ft narrowboat’ story is adding fuel to the fire, that boat life is simply life but cheaper. Boats aren’t cheap, to buy or run, and you have this fun added bonus that despite the price you paid for them, every year you own them they are a year older, and unlike houses this doesn’t equal a return on your investment.

Try telling me that living on a boat is just like a cheap way of living in a house on the 20th January 2018, when we faced our 5th day without running water, I had a literal break down and had to retreat to James’ parents for a bath, flushing toilet and some form of normality. The problems aren’t just winter related, the summer heat wave, when our solar panels decided to stop working and as such everything on the 12 volt system failed, including the fridge full of food for example.

Boat life isn’t just life, it’s getting woken up at 0200am by the bouncing rain, it’s loosing yet another item of cutlery to the cut, it’s running out of gas at 2100pm on a cold and wet Sunday evening. Of course it is magical, it’s sitting and having your evening dinner and watching an otter hunting in the cut, it’s seeing the stunning scenery the UK has to offer, it’s freedom and change and excitement.

I’m an absolute boat life advocate, granted I have weeks where I hate everything, but that is everything not just boat life. I try to balance and blog about both sides, but this increasing focus on boat life just being a cheap way to live is starting to get to me. It is both so much more and so much less than that.

I don’t want this blog to come across as being boat elitist, it is a thing and something we faced a bit of when looking. But I worry about the number of people who could be struggling with rents, city living and the impossibility of the housing market, and see these articles, and see boating as simply a cheap way to ‘own’.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is if you don’t want to hate your life, you have to appreciate that boat life isn’t at times just life but floating. We are now at a point where we forget that Fantine is a boat, of course she is, but we just see her as home because it works for us. We’ve slotted into the routine of boat life.

It doesn’t work for everyone, and I worry that the idea of boat life is being picked up in more and more ways without a true representation of boat life. Research, research then research some more, because we managed to get lucky, but this post could look very different to this.

I realise that with this blog I am opening myself up for a lot of scrutiny, but it’s been pecking at me for a while. I do worry about glamorising things without a balance of the truth, at the very least I can try to balance it with our truths.

James & Kirsty

A diary of live aboard life

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