Narrow boat on the river Nene at dusk, Peterborough (Julian Dowes) [detail]

Living afloat on Britain's waterways is a wonderful way of life. Our canals and rivers are like a commons - everyone can choose to share the living space without buying the right to do so (beyond an annual licence fee). You get your freedom, you're closer than many to nature, you know your neighbours, and for many of us it means owning our own cosy homes.

But it's not for everyone. If you don't think you'll like...

  • Having to light a fire every night in winter before bed.
  • Emptying your own sewage every week or two.
  • Moving to a new neighbourhood every couple of weeks (if you don't have a home mooring).
  • Living without your dishwasher / 40" telly / jacuzzi.
  • Assorted surprises, like running out of gas when you're half-way through a shower.
  • And sometimes all the above on the same day...

...then we've heard that it's also possible to live in a house, or you can buy a fancy residential mooring if you have the money. But for most of us the boater's life has a few rough edges - if that's not appealing then you probably won't like boating much.

This independent guide is for you if you're thinking of either living on board or at least spending a lot of time on a boat.  Here you'll find the rules for moving around and mooring up, the basics of keeping your boat shipshape, an outline of how to choose and buy a boat, and an introduction to canal culture.

Do contact us with any feedback or suggestions.