Video and pictures: Shropshire canal boat sales on the up

That is one reason why more people are deciding to give up their home on land and take to living on the water instead.

Newly released figures show that sales of canal boats are on the increase.

And according to Simon Jenkins, the owner of Norbury Wharf, between Newport and Gnosall, 70 per cent of the canal boats they sell are bought by people intending to live on the water.

Simon, 49, lives near Eccleshall and has himself lived on a canal boat for 16 years.

He said: “With the cost of boat big enough for two people being typically around £30,000, it is an affordable way to buy a place of your own.

“It is mainly couples who are taking the live-aboard option, although families can do it, and David Ray, the manager of Norbury Wharf, lives with his wife and young child on a boat.”

Simon said that while the purchase costs of a boat are much cheaper than a house, prospective owners need to be aware of the other expenses they will have to pay.

He said: “Residential moorings are not easy to get and when they are available they can cost up to £3,500 per year.

“A residential mooring can also attract council tax, but you can avoid all those costs if you keep moving and don’t just stay in one place.

“Overnight moorings are free, but different places have different rules about how long you can stay – up to two weeks in any one place is the maximum you would normally be allowed, with no return within two weeks.”

“Apart from a canal licence and insurance, the other big cost is maintenance, which needs to be done regularly to keep your boat in good condition.

“It is very hard to put a figure on the cost of maintenance, but I would say you need to allow at least £1,500 per year for it.”

Simon said that living on a canal boat isn’t a life-style for everyone and people had to really consider it carefully before selling up and sailing away.

He said: “Anyone who is considering it should try a holiday on a boat first, because selling your house, buying a boat and then finding you don’t like it could be a very expensive mistake.

“And if possible I would always encourage people who want to live on a canal boat to rent out their house rather than sell it,  because if you wanted to get back on the housing market later it could be very difficult.”

“Living on a boat is definitely more suited to some people than others and I would say it ideally suits a fit and active retired couple.”

Living on their canal boat Peter and Heather Underwood

Peter Underwood and his wife Heather took to living on a boat 12 years ago, they don’t have a residential mooring and cruise all year.

Peter, 65, said: “I was a journalist and ran a PR business, but when I was 50 had a heart-attack and then a bypass operation.

“It gave me a new perspective on life and I realised I didn’t want to work as hard as I had anymore.

“My wife and I had cruised on boats as a hobby for eight or nine years, taking weekend holidays when we could

“We knew that we enjoyed the life-style, so decided to sell-up and start a new life on the water – which we have now enjoyed for the past twelve years.

“We have found that it gets easier the more you do it, for example when I started my mechanical aptitude was pretty much zero, but I can now service the engine of the boat.”

Heather in the kitchen

He works as a freelance writer, completing articles about canal life and has published two books on the subject, Getting Afloat and Living Afloat.

Peter said there are a lot of great things about a life on the canals and that he and his wife remain as keen about their lifestyle as they ever were.

Peter onboard

He said: “The very best thing is the community and there is great camaraderie on the waterways among the boat people, we tend to look after one another.

“There are I think about seven to eight thousand people living as we do and there are 2,000 miles of waterway to explore in England and Wales.

“It is quite a comfortable life-style and you don’t spend as much money as you would on dry land, simply because you are more limited on where you can spend it.

“Probably at the top of my ‘not so good’ things would be the Canal and River Trust, the charity that runs the canal system.

“They are meant to dredge and repair the canals, but it simply isn’t spending enough money – the people at the charity know me well as I am often telling them that.”

Peter doesn’t believe the canal life-style is suited to everyone and said that being physically fit and having a ‘chilled’ personality are useful traits to have for boating life.

He said: “But for any couple contemplating living on a boat, the most important thing is that both partners are equally keen on doing it.”

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