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Boat Mooring Explained!

Thinking about buying a boat but not sure where to moor it? Heard that moorings are hard to come by?

Here we explain a range of mooring options available to you, and de-bunk rumours about a scarcity of boat mooring. All to help you enjoy the British waterways to the max!

There’s actually plenty of space to moor your boat on the UK’s waterways (with the exception of central London which is a bit busy, although still do-able!). Mooring options generally fall under the following categories:

  1. Continuous cruising on the UK’s canals
  2. Mooring with an Environmental Agency river licence
  3. Private long term & seasonal/winter moorings
  4. Moorings in marinas & boatyards

1. Continuous Cruising on the UK’s Canals

You don’t have to have a long term boat mooring to enjoy the canals. Boaters can moor their boats along most parts of the UK’s canal network simply by having a boat licence with the Canal & River Trust. We think experiencing the waterways on a continuously cruising basis is the most fun and fulfilling way to live on the water.

How it Works

The Continuous Cruising licence lets you temporarily moor in any public spot along the Canal & River Trust’s network for up to 14 days. After the 14 days are up, simply go on a cruise to reach your next destination and moor up in a new spot for another couple of weeks.

The CRT expects boaters to genuinely use the boat for travelling throughout the year (it’s called a “Continuous Cruising Licence” for a reason!). Cruising roughly 1 mile every 14 days should be enough to achieve this.

Where to Moor

When you’re cruising along the canals, you’ll be able to choose from a selection of boat mooring spots. Generally speaking, all space on the public towpath side of the canal is yours to choose from. It’s first come, first serve – see a nice spot and moor up… no pre-booking required!

You could choose to moor your boat on a dedicated mooring spot with rings, which the CRT maintains. These are generally located close to the centre of villages & towns, and will have a road nearby.  Secure your boat to the rings with your bow and stern lines, and hop off to enjoy the new location – no need for mooring pins.

Or, if you’re a fan of peace and tranquillity, you could moor up in a beautiful remote location. Tether the boat to the towpath using mooring pins, which you hammer into the ground.

The Benefits of Boat Mooring on a Continuous Cruising Basis

Having cruised the majority of the UK’s canal & river networks, we have truly experienced the joys of continuous cruising. The benefits include:

  • Meeting new people along the waterways
  • Enjoying stunning scenic and peaceful cruises
  • Taking your home with you whilst visiting new towns and villages
  • Sharing boatlife with friends and making beautiful memories
  • Having interesting chats with people whilst operating the locks
  • …the list goes on!

Facilities

Think of your CRT licence as a bit like paying council tax, as you get some facilities provided, including:

  • Water points to fill up your water tank
  • Waste & recycling points
  • Elsan disposal stations (for toilet waste)

The locations of facilities can easily be found on a handy Open Canal Map app (available FREE on both iOS and Android). Boaters generally get into the habit of visiting the facilities points every two weeks when they move along to their next boat mooring spot.

On your travels you may also use services at marinas and boatyards, who also often have water points, diesel pumps, bottles of Calor gas, and even a chandlery to shop for all things boaty.

Many canals and some rivers even have Fuel Boats that travel up and down, delivering diesel, logs, kindling and other fuels directly to your boat!

Costs for Canal Licence

The cost of a CRT licence primarily depends on the length of your boat (with an extra 10% surcharge for boats with a width over 7.1ft, or a 20% surcharge for boats over 10.4ft wide). The 2023-2024 licence fee for a 60ft widebeam works out at £123 per month. So, that’s all of your boat mooring and facilities paid for, for just £123 per month. Much cheaper than rent, hey!

More information about continuously cruising and licence fees can be found at the Canal & River Trust.

NOTE FOR NARROWS: Because your boat is under 7.1ft in width, there is no surcharge so the fee for a 60ft narrowboat will be £102 per month.

Boat Mooring with Rings in UK Town

2. Boat Mooring with an EA River Licence

The Environment Agency (EA) looks after a number of the UK’s larger navigable rivers, including:

  • River Thames
  • River Medway
  • River Nene
  • River Great Ouse System
  • River Ancholme
  • River Glen (above Surfleet Sluice)
  • River Welland (above Spalding Lock)
  • River Stour

You can obtain a river licence via the Environment Agency website (slight warning: it’s a UK gov website, so prepared to be a little confused going through their process and forms!).

Continuously Cruising on Environment Agency Rivers

Continuously cruising on EA rivers is regulated in a completely different way than on CRT canals & rivers, with two key differences: 

  1. On the EA licence, there is no requirement for you to move on every two weeks
  2. Most of the land on EA rivers is privately owned by councils, individuals or companies, so boat mooring rules and fees vary, depending on who owns and operates the riverside location

Some 24 hour boat moorings are included within the Environment Agency boat licence. These are usually located close to locks.

Boat Mooring Signs

If you’re looking for mooring spots for longer stays, it’s a game of being on the lookout:

  • Firstly, it’s usually pretty clear where you AREN’T allowed to moor (either because it’s someone’s garden, or because of the not-so-subtle NO MOORING sign!)
  • Official mooring locations usually display a clear sign stating boat mooring fees and the permitted duration of your stay.
  • And keep your eyes peeled for FREE locations… basically a more remote spot that isn’t someone’s garden, doesn’t have a NO MOORING sign, and or any other sign with the mooring rules!

? No Mooring

Boat Mooring Sign at Mill Meadow Henley on Thames River

Paid mooring

Free Mooring Spot on the River Thames

Free Mooring!

Feeling Adventurous?

Depending on your level of adventurous spirit, it is possible to find free boat mooring spots on the rivers. These are generally in remote locations, which we lovingly call “adventure moorings” and can involve tying the boat to a tree and using a plank to get to the river bank!

Narrowboat and Widebeam Double Adventure Boat Mooring

For those that want to be closer to civilisation (and the river bank!), it’s generally best to find a permitted mooring spot maintained and regulated by the local council. 

Costs for River Licence & Mooring

LICENCE: An annual boat licence with the EA varies depending on the area of your boat (i.e. how many square metres your boat is, calculated by multiplying the length by its beam/width).  As an example, the Environment Agency Licence for a 60ft x 12ft widebeam boat in 2023 works out as £130 per month.

NOTE FOR NARROWS: You’re in luck! Because the area of your boat is significantly less than a widey, you’ll be saving a packet on the EA fee.  For a 60ft narrowboat, it works out as just £75 per month!

RIVER MOORING: This really depends on where you choose to moor, but typical mooring fees might be £60 per week (7 nights), so that might be on average around £260 per month. Although if you find a lovely free spot, your mooring fees might be £0 for that month!

The Gold Licence

“What about a Gold Licence?” I hear you ask! It’s really the best of both worlds. The Gold Licence (which you obtain from the CRT) allows you to freely cruise on the CRT canals & rivers, and also covers the EA rivers too!

This allows for maximum flexibility of your travels, and can also save you a hefty whack! Here’s a comparison of the standard licences (already covered above) vs the Gold Licence for a 60ft x 12ft widebeam boat:

  • A standard CRT licence = £123 per month
  • A standard EA licence = £130 per month
  • But a magical Gold Licence (which covers both of the above) = £125 per month !!!!!

3. Private Long Term & Winter Moorings

Should you wish to keep a boat in one location all the time, there are some great long term boat mooring spots available. 

The CRT manages some long term boat moorings. You can input the size of your boat on their Waterside Moorings website, and see current and upcoming long term mooring vacancies.

Example long term moorings (3 year contract) for a 60ft x 12ft widebeam boat:

  • Residential Mooring in Loughborough with water point & electricity hookup = £261 per month
  • Leisure Mooring in London Hackney Wick with water point & electricity hookup = £688 per month

Winter Boat Mooring

A popular option with boaters is to continuously cruise for spring, summer & autumn, and then find a winter mooring to cosy up for the colder months.

The CRT has a number of winter mooring spaces, and do ask around on the boaty grapevine as private moorings open up too (often found by word-of-mouth only!).

Private Boat Mooring

Private boat moorings could be located at the end of someone’s garden, the edge of a farm, or another stretch of riverside land. In our experience they are usually found the old fashioned way (asking around!), or by looking out for a sign.

Lock keepers (aka “Lockies”) are generally a fountain of boating knowledge, and seem to be in-the-know about local moorings available.

Additionally, we have seen advertss for private boat moorings pop up in various online & offline boating publications including Towpath Talk, Waterways World, Apollo Duck and in boating Facebook groups.

Costs for Private & Winter Moorings

Unless you’ve got a buddy with an extra long garden on the canal or river, there’s usually a mooring fee for long term private boat moorings, and that’s in addition to your boat licence fee.

Winter mooring costs can vary depending on your location and demand for the mooring spot. As an example, CRT winter moorings vary between £144 and £450 per month. Again, much cheaper than rent!

Private Narrowboat Boat Mooring

4. Marinas & Boatyards

There are plenty of marinas & boatyards with boat moorings across the 5,000 miles of navigable waterways in the UK, and they’re on the up!

Each marina is privately owned and will offer different facilities. These may include a chandlery, showers, washing machines, electricity hookups, water points, parking & even onsite restaurants and bars! ?.

How to Find a Boat Mooring in a Marina

Most marinas and boatyards have a website (brace yourself for some old-skool website design!) and can be found via Google. You’ll also find ads in publications such as Towpath Talk and Waterways world. These regularly show long term or seasonal marina boat mooring spots.

The best way to find a boat mooring in a marina is to give them a call, get their latest price and then pop on over for a viewing. Have a chat with the staff, see if it’s your vibe, and check on the facilities included in the price.

Costs for Marina & Boatyard Moorings

The cost of a marina boat mooring spot will vary significantly depending on the location, demand, and facilities provided. Moorings in the North of the UK are generally cheaper than in the South.

A few examples for a 60ft x 12ft widebeam: 

NOTE FOR NARROWS: Because a lot of marinas can fit 2 narrowboats into a single widebeam bay, your slimmer boat may save on marina mooring fees!

Boat Mooring in a Marina

In Summary…

There are plenty of places to moor your boat on the UK’s vast network of canals & rivers. With a bit of research, you can certainly find mooring to suit your preference and budget. Finding new mooring spots is actually part of the adventure!

We highly recommend continuously cruising because of the joy and fulfilment it brings, and we’ll be writing more about the practicalities of that in a future post!

We can honestly say that although the number of boats are on the up, there are still plenty of mooring spaces available. We’ve even cruised in central London which is the busiest by far, and although we choose not to now, we know it’s doable.

Whether you’re drawn to the ever-changing views of continuous cruising or the comfort of a well-equipped marina, your perfect spot is out there, waiting for you to moor up!

You could WIN a brand new widebeam boat!

Here’s a quick reminder about our exciting “Win a Boat” competition, brought to you by Marwood Makes. We’re offering the chance for you to win a brand new, custom-designed stunning widebeam boat of your very own, worth £180,000!

The prize comes with 1 year’s continuous cruising licence, insurance and certificates to get you all started. We’ll be giving the winner tailored advice about mooring, and will be on hand to offer realtime support & guidance.

If you’re up for a new adventure, check out the competition to see the amazing life-changing prize!

Marwood Makes

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