madness of moorings

the madness of moorings - are you paying too much?

the barge association mooring survey

Why do boat owners decide to live “afloat”? Are the reasons changing? If affordability was important then how do you know what it’s going to cost? Has the pandemic made it more difficult to pay for where you and your boat live? Can you help all UK liveaboards achieve the best deal for each of us?

There’s no doubt that moving onto the water has become not just a lifestyle choice but, for some, a lifeline when housing costs become too much to bear. City dwellers faced with impossible rents and mortgage payments have looked to the canals and rivers as a seductive alternative but are they? For many, this means “continuous cruising” with no fixed mooring just to avoid the fees. For others who want or need a more settled life, it’s a hunt for an affordable mooring.

But have those calculations changed during the pandemic? Some who live in cities have enjoyed the enviable position of being moored in managed marinas with national commercial landlords or Trusts who claim charitable status. Others have to negotiate their way (and their bank balance) through the fog of privately or corporately-owned moorings where you have to pay what you’re asked with no idea if this is a good deal or a rip-off.

And the bigger you are, the more difficult and expensive it gets. To find out just how difficult, DBA - The Barge Association, which represents not only barges and large broad beam boats but has members with craft of all sizes, is running a national survey, comparing mortgage figures & bricks-&-mortar rentals with mooring fees.  The equations, particularly for London & the Home Counties are already quite startling and the survey now urgently needs more information from all areas of the UK in order to complete a comprehensive database to aid owners in their hunt for moorings and in negotiating new or renewal terms.

Already it is clear that for some, monthly mooring fees for vessels are between 50% & 100% more than comparable apartment rental costs, and almost exactly the same costs as 20 year mortgages And the fundamental difference is that after every payment, every year, the vessel owner is left with nothing and the building buyer is a year nearer to owning the property.  For example, In East London, a modest two bedroom flat will attract a rent of between £12,000 & £15,500 per year and a mortgage for such a property may be between £1,000 & £2,700 per month. Meanwhile, marinas & docks in the borough of Tower Hamlets will be costing liveaboards in the region of £420-£640 per week!

The strong impression is that mooring owners are able to defy the laws of economics to charge more and more per year whilst delivering less and less value. Meanwhile, the renter or purchaser gets less and less for their hard-earned salary. For many, the challenge of continuous cruising is too much. Experienced boaters often say it requires similar time and effort to a part-time job on top of what you do to earn money just to service the boat plus, for those who work from home, which is hugely attractive to a boating lifestyle, the need for reliable power and wifi is a significant driver for needing a permanent mooring alongside the option to cruise when you can.

So, for those walking past a barge owner, the universal question is no longer; “Is it cold in winter?” but “Are your economics on thin ice?” You can help NOW by contributing to the DBA Mooring Survey for wherever your boat is moored, whatever its size and whatever you do with it.

The survey is open NOW

Please help us all find out what is going on, create a national database which will be available  to the public and then please use it to help you!

For further enquiries please contact:

Mike Gibbons, Chair DBA - The Barge Association

Email or telephone 07885 239643