Right! I’ve decided to buy a boat. Please tell me everything I need to know about moorings.
Uh… such as what, for instance?
1. Such as do I need to secure a mooring before I buy my boat?
I was told NOT to buy a boat unless I’d already secured a mooring. For what it’s worth I didn’t take that advice. Of course, if you are tied to a particular area for work or family reasons, and absolutely cannot move far from that location, then finding yourself on a boat without a conveniently-located mooring could be mildly disastrous.
However, many boaters don’t have a permanent mooring at all, and still manage to hold down jobs. I bought my boat and moored it in Bristol Harbour for 6 months without having secured it in advance. Although I was fairly flying by the seat of my pants.
2. How do I find a mooring?
Moorings are chiefly provided by privately-owned marinas, the national Waterside Mooring (part of the Canal and River Trust), and other independent navigation authorities (such as Bristol Harbour or the River Medway). You will have to apply to them directly to find a suitable mooring. For marinas, this means ringing around or alternatively turning up in person and looking winsome. (I think I do winsome particularly well.)
The CRT makes all of its 3000+ moorings available online through the Waterside Mooring website. Here you have to buy or bid for moorings in just the same way as if you were using Ebay, which you can read all about in this post here.
3. Will I be able to get a permanent mooring?
Depends what you mean by ‘permanent’. The Canal and River Trust owns most of Britain’s waterways, except for certain sites which fall outside its jurisdiction. For instance, the harbour at Bristol is managed by the Bristol Harbour authority. Competition for moorings in Bristol is so intense that the Harbour Authority has closed applications for its long-term moorings.
The CRT rather misleading describes moorings as being ‘for sale’ through its ancillary business Waterside Mooring, although in fact such moorings are really only rented or leased – nobody gets to keep them indefinitely! That said, long-term lease arrangements do occasionally become available.
It is very difficult to find a permanent mooring unless you actually own the land upon which you intend to moor. Even if you do own land – for instance, if you have a garden that attaches to a river or canal – you will need to get permission from the Canal and River Trust to keep a boat there, since the CRT will own the riverbed and charge accordingly. That’s right – they will make you pay to moor at the end of your own garden.
It is very difficult to find a permanent mooring unless you actually own the land upon which you intend to moor.
4. I’m thinking of bidding on a three year mooring contract with the CRT. What happens after the three years is up?
Unfortunately at the end of the three-year term you don’t automatically get to renew your contract. The mooring spot will be made available to the public through the Waterside Mooring website and you will have to repurchase or bid again online.
That doesn’t seem fair.
What can I say? I didn’t make the rules.
5. Have you got any tips for winning a CRT auction?
6. Once I get a mooring, am I allowed to live on my boat?
This depends on a number of factors, and it depends what you mean by ‘live’. If you’re not bothered about having a permanent address or somewhere for your mail to be delivered, then in most cases you can spend as much time as you like on your own boat.
However, if you have a leisure mooring that seems to be turning into a permanent squat, with washing lines and rubbish bins spread out on the bank – and especially if you’re near local residential housing – then you can expect someone to come knocking on your roof and asking you to move along.
7. What’s the difference between residential moorings and leisure moorings?
Residential moorings are few and far between, but an official residential mooring will come with a mailing address… and you will also be liable to pay council tax. If you have a leisure mooring you will be expected to prove that you also have a permanent address elsewhere. You will not be able to receive mail at a leisure mooring.
An official residential mooring will come with a mailing address… and you will also be liable to pay council tax.
Sites which offer only leisure moorings do not have planning permission for residential moorings. I made enquiries at one marina and was told that local residents and the council routinely spy on the marina to check that boaters are not spending ‘too long’ on their boats…
However, it is often worth asking.
8. How much do moorings cost?
Mooring costs usually depend on boat size, so the longer/wider your boat, the more you should expect to pay. Predictably, marina moorings are decidedly less expensive in the Midlands and further north than they are in the South of England. As an example, I could moor my 64ft boat in the Midlands for around £2000 per year, whereas I’d expect to pay upwards of £4000 further south.
9. Oh okay. Well, maybe I don’t need a mooring after all. What other options do I have?
You could be a ‘continuous cruiser’.
10. Sounds faintly illicit. What does that entail, exactly?
It’s not illicit. Boaters who keep moving on the waterways and don’t have a permanent ‘home’ mooring are known as ‘continuous cruisers’. They find a suitable spot on the canal, break out their mooring pins, and tie themselves to the bank…
But you said…
I mean they tie the boat to the bank, it’s not a BDSM thing. They can normally stay there for up to two weeks before having to move on to the next neighbourhood, although there’s no exact stipulation as to what exactly constitutes a neighbourhood or how far you are expected to move. Some people say you should travel roughly 20 miles per year, but this seems a fairly arbitrary figure.
11. Is ‘continuous cruising’ free?
I’m afraid not, unless you’re a pirate. You still have to buy the appropriate license.
12. ‘Pirate’? What do you mean by ‘pirate’?
I mean someone who is living on the waterways without a licence. I don’t mean eyepatches and parrots and stuff. And I only just realised how similar ‘pirate’ and ‘parrot’ sound.
Unless you’re a pirate, you will have to buy the appropriate licence.
13. You keep mentioning a licence as if it’s self-explanatory. What is this ‘licence’ of which you speak?
Everyone has to pay a licence fee. Precise costs depend on boat size, but it’s roughly equivalent to the cost of council tax. Usually your licence will be issued by the Canal and River Trust (see here for a list of their current prices), unless you’re cruising those areas which are not managed by the Trust. Other navigation authorities will impose their own costs and licensing structures.
One thing is certain, and that is nobody gets to keep their boat on the waterways for free. (Unless they’re a pirate.)
14. I see. Do I still need a licence even if I’ve already paid for a mooring?
Yes, unfortunately you do! Mooring costs are not inclusive of licence fees.