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Moving to a houseboat in Oxford 

Posted on September 20, 2022 by Peter Donaldson
Moving to a houseboat in Oxford 

Moving onto a houseboat: Since the 1960’s the vast networks of canals in the UK have been restored and become a place for leisure cruising.  For some, a weekend break turns into a lifelong romance as they fall in love with the mobile life on the water.  In London, there has been a 60 percent increase in boats registered to be moored in the city.   Factors such as the pandemic, working from home, and rising rental costs all play a part in this watery exodus.  Plus, with technological improvements with LEDs and solar panels and Wi-Fi, moving to a houseboat doesn’t mean going back in time.  However, life on the waters is determined by where you are located. While London has a host of marinas, canals, and the Thames, in Oxford the main waterway through the city is the Oxford canal.  For a central location, a narrowboat is the most likely vessel. 

The reality of living on a houseboat 

Generally, life on a narrowboat will involve sourcing your own water and filling up tanks.  Gas will be in bottles and will need changing.  Electricity can have various sources, either by hooking up to a point at a marina or a power point or by charging your own batteries.  Heat will come from a gas or coal fire, or a wood burner.  As for the toilet, you will not have the luxury of being so distanced from your sewage as those on dry land.  If you are setting up a boat you have various options for choosing what toilet is best, as it’s a key feature of life onboard For guidelines on how to get lifestyle savvy on the water, check out Boating on the Thames.  As the lifestyle involves a certain hardy commitment, it forges a close-knit community amongst its boat people.  This is one of the benefits of the lifestyle. There is also additional support in publications like Waterways World and Canal Boat Magazine, and also on the online community of Canal World Forum. 

Is moving to a houseboat a cheaper option? 

This depends very much on your circumstances.  Whether you want to buy a houseboat or rent one.  Do you need to be near the city centre, or are you happy to be in a remote part of the canal with moorhens and coots for company?   In Oxfordshire, there are three marina moorings, Port Meadow, Osney and Abingdon.  Osney Mills is the most central in the city.  Mooring rates in Oxford have been decried as unaffordable for people on low incomes, and continual cruising is apparently not as fluid as it is in London.  In fact, looking at the houseboat market in Oxford, there seem to be a lot of houseboats for rent on Airbnb and other platforms.  Obtaining a mooring along the Oxford Canal seems to be much harder if it was a permanent residence, you were interested in.  Further afield in Banbury, Sovereign Wharf offers marina moorings with a range of amenities.  

Costs to factor in if you buy a houseboat 

While you are exempt from Stamp Duty, and in the lowest Council Tax bracket, there are still sizeable outgoings if you are going to buy a houseboat.  Mooring Fees can range from £2,000 to £20,000 per year.  A Boat License is from £510 – £1,100 per year, and you will need a Boat Safety Certificate which comes in at £150. Insurance starts around £200, and a Boat Survey is roughly £350 – £450.  Maintaining your vessel is a constant process requiring money and time for tinkering. Bottom blacking is a process that boats have in the calendar every two years. 

Renting a narrow boat for an Oxford break

Oxford is a perennial magnet for tourism and people love to hire canal boats for holidays and weekend breaks. If you haven’t tried living on a houseboat yet, it may be worth renting one for a holiday. Spending time on the canal will give you a real sense of whether boat life is for you.  Some companies break down the costs so you can see what it is exactly you are paying for in the process.  As boats must be maintained throughout the year, rental costs take this into account.  If you fall in love with the lifestyle then you can consider what it would be like as a longer term fixture. 

Drawbacks of living on a houseboat

  • Not having a fixed address can be difficult to receive parcels, mail and goods 
  • Having to walk from the boat to the car on often unlit or unsafe pathways 
  • Crime, often houseboats are sitting targets for theft and vandalism
  • Dampness 
  • Continual maintenance work 

Benefits of living on a houseboat 

  • Freedom to explore waterways of the UK and travel 
  • Connection to nature 
  • Participating in community
  • Being in control of own fuel, electricity and gas 
  • Owning one’s own boat, generally cheaper than a house

The advantages and disadvantages are going to depend on personal preference.  Whether you are moored in a marina or along the canal will make a difference.  It seems that in Oxford, with restricted moorings on the desirable Oxford Canal buying a boat and mooring could take some time.  However, if you can rent a boat instead of buying then you may be able to secure a central location, near the historic Isis lock.  Whether you rent or buy, you will have to adapt to a whole new way of life which will involve some decluttering and downsizing. 

Downsizing for a houseboat 

This could be a pro or a con of the houseboat question. For some living with less can be seen as a great thing, for others the lack of comfort that comes with the smaller living space could be a downer.  Luckily, you can utilize a storage unit on land as an additional space.  Isis storage units are the perfect companion to life on the narrowboat.  You can keep your dryland gear safe and secure while living the dream on the waters.  Similarly, if you are using a houseboat in Oxford as rental venture, you can benefit from a local Oxford storage unit to store equipment, bedding, and furniture on shore.

Removals & Storage in Oxford 

Isis Removals and Storage are a family-owned Oxford business that have been serving Oxford for the last 12 years.  As members of the British Association of Removers we can guarantee a faultless quality service.  Our storage units in Oxford and Man and Van service can be the perfect addition to your small business or change of living circumstance.  We offer our expert advice to find a solution for you that is economically sound as well as satisfying.   For expert advice on how storage could help you as you move, downsize, or start a new enterprise speak to our friendly team.  We are only too happy to help as our Google and TrustPilot reviews will demonstrate.  No job is too large or small for our reliable team.  If you are moving around the corner, or overseas, we can be the ones you can rely upon.