Location: mooring on the canal system
There are three main different types of mooring; the marina, the on-line mooring and being a continuous cruiser. There are some other types of mooring and I will go in to them later on in this post.
This is a marina mooring
These are the moorings that are most like having a house. You put your boat in a marina and you pay the marina owner for the space. Marinas often have other facilities which they offer either free of charge (like water taps to refill your tank) or you pay-per-use (like selling gas bottles, electricity hook ups, etc).
Some marinas have an on-site boat yard where you can go for repairs. This is very useful, especially when starting out owning a boat as help is easily obtainable.
There are two types of mooring in marinas, leisure moorings and residential moorings. With leisure moorings you leave your boat there and you live in your house/flat/caravan. You visit your boat and possibly take her out to go cruising every so often.
If you have a residential mooring you can live on your boat and use it as your home address, this often involves paying council tax (generally in the lowest band) but you then get access to council services like being able to join the library. Not all marinas offer residential moorings to find out you need to ask at the marina.
security, they are often behind locked gates so you have peace of mind
security, you will always have your space as long as you pay your mooring fees
lots of facilities to hand
other people around to ask for help if things go wrong
cost, they are often th e most expensive type of mooring
you are in a crowd of other people
you may not be able to live there as they may be leisure moorings only
This is an on-line mooring (the boats on the left)
These are moorings on the side of the canal, they can be on the towpath side or non-towpath side. They are generally run by the Canal and River Trust (the website to search for moorings is here).
You can also have what is known as an end-of-garden mooring if you own a property which backs on to the non-towpath side of the canal. You will have to ask the Canal and River Trust (or Environment Agency if on one of their rivers) for permission. I don’t know what hoops you would have to jump through to get it as I have never tried.
With an on-line mooring you have less security than in a marina and you have less facilities. For example you will have to travel to the nearest water point to fill up with water and the nearest elsan point to empty your toilet. These are generally provided on-site in a marina.
An on-line mooring does have its positives, it is often cheaper than keeping your boat in a marina. Another positive is that you are closer to nature as there are typically less boats around you.
On-line moorings give you the security that you will have a place to stay while having a lot of the benefits of continuous cruising on the canal.
security of having your space, if you go to fill up your water tank no-one will have taken your space
get to know the local area well and be part of the community
less people about so more in touch with nature
you can definitely live on the boat
less security, no locked gates to keep strangers out
can have strangers walking past your boat all the time
may be quite a way from facilities e.g. water points
might not be convenient for transport links, it all depends where you moor
may not be in the area that you want
This is a continuous cruiser mooring
The third type of mooring is continuous cruising. This is where you move your boat every two weeks (or less if the signage says so). You get to experience a lot more of the canal system by exploring the different waterways.
Being a continuous cruiser you have the freedom of the canal system to roam, but you have little security. This type of mooring is not good for people who need to commute for a job (although it is possible, especially around London).
The lifestyle also involves a lot of planning as you need to locate the nearest food shops and other things you need every time you moor up somewhere new. You also have to consult maps to find the nearest water and toilet points.
freedom to roam the whole canal system
you get to move on from any neighbors you don’t get on with, or neighborhoods you don’t like
new sights every few weeks
cost, this is the cheapest option for mooring fees
lack of security, no guaranteed place to stay (if you move to fill up your water tank you may find that your space has been taken when you get back
lack of security, you have no-one to look out for your boat and no locked gates to keep people out
difficult for commuting as you keep changing where you live
you have to keep moving on, even if the weather is bad or you find an area which you love
you have to plan for areas where there are no facilities or food shops
there may be places with no phone or internet signal
In conclusion, look at the different advantages and disadvantages of each type. You can’t always just look at initial cost, being a continuous cruiser means that you don’t have to pay mooring fees (unless you are in a really popular spot like Little Venice in central London) but you do have increased diesel costs as you need to run the engine to move your boat more often. Pick the lifestyle that seems best for you.