Guide to a life afloat with­out any sink­ing feel­ings

Life on the in­land wa­ter­ways can be bliss­ful but it isn’t all plain sail­ing, says Tony Jones, who has writ­ten an es­sen­tial guide to liv­ing aboard. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - FRONT PAGE -

THE Rosie and Jim- style boat with smoke puff­ing from the wood burner, flower pots perched on the roof and bi­cy­cle strapped to the side has sparked a thou­sand day dreams.

Land­lub­bers look long­ingly from the tow­path and think how won­der­ful it would be to live life in the slow lanes of the in­land wa­ter­ways.

Some try it and reap the re­wards, while oth­ers re­gret the decision, which is why Tony Jones has writ­ten his book The Live­aboard Guide.

Tony, whose main base is near Bin­g­ley’s Five Rise Locks aboard his 50ft nar­row­boat The Watch­man, took the plunge into the still, murky wa­ters of the canal sys­tem seven years ago know­ing noth­ing about boat­ing.

“I’m a rep­tile ex­pert and I’d just come back from a job set­ting up a zoo in the Ca­naries. I had a chunk of money and my life­style was itin­er­ant so I bought a nar­row boat even though I’d never even been on one. Luck­ily, I had a friend who knew a lot more than me and he helped me choose The Watch­man,” says Tony.

He was per­fectly suited to life afloat, oth­ers aren’t so for­tu­nate. They miss their hot baths and they can’t cope with the con­fined space or the hard work.

“Mov­ing aboard is be­com­ing more pop­u­lar be­cause of the econ­omy and be­cause mod­ern life is more stress­ful, but you have to be the right kind of per­son,” says Tony, 40.

“You have to be easy go­ing, able to do with­out mod cons and you can’t be a con­sumer be­cause there’s nowhere to put any­thing much. So if you have lots of clothes and a big telly it might not be for you. A lot of peo­ple who live aboard are sin­gle. They aren’t sad or lonely. They just like their own space.”

An­other thing boat peo­ple have in com­mon is “dirty fin­ger­nails”. It is a re­cur­ring phrase in Tony’s book, which is a must-read for any­one con­sid­er­ing this way of life. It is full of tips, case stud­ies and pho­to­graphs as well as great ad­vice.

Rule num­ber one is that you must not be afraid to get your hands filthy. There are many mucky jobs on a boat and it is a labour-in­ten­sive ex­is­tence, from emp­ty­ing toi­let waste to weed­ing the prop.

Also, you may think you are es­cap­ing from the rat race, but you are not. Rats love wa­ter­ways and so you must be care­ful to wash your hands af­ter con­tact with the canal so you don’t con­tract Weil’s dis­ease.

“It’s not all rolling coun­try­side and the easy life. Liv­ing aboard can be very hard work, complicated and frus­trat­ing.

“You can run out of gas, your boat can get iced in, there’s no dust­bin just out­side your door and there is a lot of main­te­nance,” says Tony, a free­lance writer, who shares his ex­pe­ri­ence of ev­ery­thing from buy­ing a boat and the cost of liv­ing aboard to installing the in­ter­net and the best boat loos.

The costs are not in­sub­stan­tial and start with the boat.

You will see ad­verts for boats cost­ing £8,000 but they will need restor­ing and they won’t have fa­cil­i­ties so un­less you are an ex­cel­lent DIY’ER, you are bet­ter buy­ing some­thing from £25,000 to £30,000 up­wards.

“A lot of peo­ple buy a bad boat and fail. If you don’t have ba­sic fa­cil­i­ties like a shower you’ll end up hat­ing it,” says Tony.

Av­er­age an­nual run­ning costs vary but Tony’s add up to about £4,000 a year.

A wa­ter­ways li­cence costs from £700, in­sur­ance is about £150, gas from a bot­tle and electricity from hook up or bat­ter­ies charged by the en­gine is about £10 a week. Heat is usu­ally from a multi-fuel stove that costs about £5 a week to run. Then there is diesel for the boat. A boat safety certificate is re­quired ev­ery four years for £150 and there is al­ways main­te­nance and re­pairs, rang­ing from water pump break­downs, which are com­mon, to re­place­ment bat­ter­ies and bot­tom black­ing the boat ev­ery four years in a dry dock.

One of the most chal­leng­ing as­pects of life afloat is moor­ings. Res­i­den­tial moor­ings are ex­pen­sive and they vary from £5,000 to £10,000 per an­num. They are few and far be­tween and you’ll also pay coun­cil tax on them. The re­sult is a lot of duck­ing and div­ing and some “con­tin­ual cruis­ing” from one free vis­i­tor moor­ing to an­other.

The most com­mon sce­nario is sell­ing your­self as a “high us­age boater” to a ma­rina or boat yard that tol­er­ates dis­creet live-aboards, though they can­not of­fi­cially recog­nise them for plan­ning rea­sons.

Av­er­age costs for this kind of moor­ing vary from £700 a year at a boat club up to £5,000 for a swanky ma­rina and for this you can ex­pect a tap, and pump out and El­san dis­posal. The gov­ern­ment, which sees boat dwelling as part of the so­lu­tion to the hous­ing short­age, has in­tro­duced new guide­lines to make it eas­ier to get res­i­den­tial plan­ning per­mis­sion for mari­nas.

“This should make mari­nas more com­mer­cially vi­able, but what would be aw­ful is if you got the equiv­a­lent of float­ing park homes,” says Tony.

He prefers the free­dom of be­ing able to travel up and down the wa­ter­ways when­ever he likes, which is one of the many plea­sures of live-aboards.

“I like the free­dom, the wildlife, the scenery and the kook­i­ness of it all. But one of the best things about liv­ing on a boat is the boat­ing com­mu­nity. The peo­ple are bril­liant. It’s a com­mu­nity cul­ture that has al­most dis­ap­peared from land-based liv­ing.

@You get to know one an­other be­cause you all share the same fa­cil­i­ties like the bins and the pumps and the locks, so you have to in­ter­act.

“Ev­ery­one helps each other and a good ex­am­ple of that is when I first got my boat. I sailed off and re­alised my tap wasn’t work­ing. I stopped and asked for ad­vice from some­one on a nearby boat. He told me there were two water tanks and I needed to fill the sec­ond.

@I filled it, had a cup of tea and re­alised I was stood in six inches of water. I thought I was sink­ing and screamed like a girl. The same man calmed me down, told me the tank had burst and then spent the whole week­end fix­ing it for me.

“He wouldn’t even let me buy him a beer af­ter. He told me that’s the way it works and that when he needed help there would be some­one there for him. Ba­si­cally, ev­ery­one helps each other. That re­ally is the great­est thing about liv­ing on a boat.”

Tony and his dog Puck live on which is moored close to Bin­g­ley’s Five Rise Locks. The 50ft nar­row­boat is cosy in­side but there is no room for clut­ter. Tony says you need to be the right kind of per­son and able to put up with dirty jobs to live on board.

NOT FOR EV­ERY­ONE:

The­watch­man,

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