London Boaters

 

Considering that narrowboats made their first appearance as wood and coal cargo boats, it might seems strange now to think of them as a very popular dwelling choice in London. It was only from 1995 that Bri- tish Waterways agreed to release a “continuous cruising” licence to boaters who did not want to pay for a mooring ( a place where the boat could be kept and left ) or to use the facilities of the marina, on the con- dition that they would “engage in regular navigation along the network of canals and rivers, and should not be moored in the same place for more than 14 days”. This was the mutual agreement between Canal River Trust and London boaters who were allowed to live on their houseboats all year long but expected to move every two weeks to a different spot.

Mobility, which is one of the main feature of this lifestyle, has always represented for boaters an opportu- nity to make weekly friends with people mooring next to one another (rarely in London you get to meet your neighbours) and paradoxically the chance to create a community.

However, since May 2015, new regulations were applied by CRT on continuous cruisers, partly to face the increasingly numbers of people who came to live on boats (who would largely exceed the common fa- cilities ) and partly to prevent them to stay long time in the most popular areas. The most important enforcement stated that boaters would now have to travel a minimum of 20 miles a year.

Since 2015 many cruisers found themselves fighting against the threats of not having their licence renewed and losing their home because the supposed lack of miles accumulated. Clearly, CRT’s change of attitude has also affected London boaters lifestyle and way of living which might not be anymore a “ safety anchor” for those who wants an alternative to the concrete jungle.