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Residential Boating Information

Living afloat can be very attractive compared to a flat or house ashore. Many boats are bought with just this in mind. Other owners might combine a season of cruising with permanent residence, perhaps in one spot for the winter. Generally speaking, true residential moorings are difficult to find, but leisure moorings are easier to find.

A narrowboat as a permanent home

As a permanent home – fitted out to a high standard with proper insulation, central heating often combined with a solid fuel stove, and with a full power supply running the sort of amenities you would expect on land, a narrowboat or its wide beam equivalent can be a cosy home.

Finding that mooring

Before deciding to live afloat on the canals and rivers, a mooring must be found unless intending to continually cruise. Since The Canal and River Trust (CRT) manage about 80% of the canal system we suggest you make a start with where you will find vacancies that arise at the Canal and River Trust's directly managed mooring sites in England and Wales.

Canal and River Trust (CRT) - Continuous cruising

For licensing purposes the CRT recognises owners who intend to cruise continuously… “without remaining in one place for more than fourteen days or such longer period as is reasonable in the circumstances”. These conditions are defined in the CRT Boat Licence and Permit conditions, which you will need to study. For this wandering lifestyle you will need a standard Pleasure Boat Licence. For up to date details go to

Some owners may negotiate a permanent residential mooring in, for example, a commercial marina for the winter months and cruise extensively during the summer. Most commercial operators are flexible in negotiating fees for a mooring of this kind. Residential boaters are often welcome at a marina when space is available, because they add to the general sense of security of the marina during off season.

Canal and River Trust (CRT) - Permanent residence

If you view a narrowboat as an alternative to a house or flat, permanently moored on a site with planning permission for residential use, and not used for cruising, for CRT waters you will require a Houseboat Licence. Fees for Houseboat Licences are available from CRT Customer Services, Tel: 08456 715530, or they may be downloaded from the Canal and River Trust website.

The fees are the same as those for a Cruising Licence, but start at 10.49 metres. Special conditions apply to Houseboat Licences and copies of these are available on or from your local CRT offices. You will require a residential mooring, a Boat Safety Certificate and third-party insurance when you apply.

Obtain your mooring first

Some permanent Canal and River Trust moorings are available (see, but most will be found in marinas or commercial boatyards, such as our marinas on or The important thing is to identify a suitable mooring first!

Narrowboat builders and marina operators are an excellent source of advice on permanent moorings (or moorings of any kind), since they know their local areas well and some may be able to offer places in their own yards. In certain circumstances you may not need a CRT Licence. For example; if your boat is moored in a private marina not located on CRT water. The rule of thumb  is that you will need a waterways licence if you moor or cruise on CRT owned navigations.

Residential Moorings

Residential moorings in London or the Southeast are difficult to obtain, sometimes with a long waiting list. In fact any residential moorings around the country close to population centres, railway stations, shopping amenities and so on are more difficult to find.

Check that the mooring is available

The best short-term option is to buy a boat already on a residential mooring, remembering that it must have a Houseboat Licence. Before you buy, check with the vendor that the mooring is available and may be transferred legally to you. This is often the case with residential moorings, although there might be a transfer charge. Motto, check first!

Council tax and domestic services

Remember that you will be responsible for paying council tax in one form or another and for the entire local and domestic services at your mooring plus your Houseboat Licence.

Useful sources of information

The Canal and River Trust website and Customer Services - Tel: 08456 715530.

The National Association of Boat Owners provide some useful information on their website

As do The Residential Boat Owners Association ( who publish a booklet 'Living Afloat' which contains sensible advice written by 'live-aboards'.

Other Useful Publications

'The Inland Boat Owners Book by Graham Booth.

'The Building of a Narrowboat' (Design, construction and fitting out) by Emrhys Barrell.

These books or something similar can be purchased at the majority of our marinas or at

For details of brokerage boats available visit or contact our marinas.