We’ve been living abroad for three years in the UK while we get ready to go further afield (read fix boat and pay off loans) and have generally had positive…
We’ve been living abroad for three years in the UK while we get ready to go further afield (read fix boat and pay off loans) and have generally had positive experiences doing so even during covid.
We don’t have a string of properties and bolt holes so the boat is our one and only home. This is a post about some of the things we’ve learnt along the way.
Kitting boat out
It’s possible to get a boat to a point where you can live mostly off-grid. We have 820W of solar and Rutland 1200 wind generator, a 6kW diesel generator, a small portable freezer, a large normal fridge, x2 laptops + router.
From around April this set-up generates almost enough power to keep the batteries charged so the heating can be on in the evening and the fridge stays cold.
We don’t leave the wind generator on at night while sleeping because it’s too noisy but it’s a decent backup for the inevitable cloudy days/weeks. As well as to heat the water for a hot shower.
A good plan is to get lithium-ion batteries, even if you only get x1 100Ah battery for your house bank.
They might look expensive but if you consider you’d have to change your lead acid ones twice a year (they only do 150 cycles usually) and you can discharge to ±10% without reducing life, charges in 2 hours etc. then they’re actually the same if not cheaper and a lot more convenient.
It’s one of the things I really wish we had done from day one.
However, even with all this we still need to hit up a marina every ±two weeks to refill water and in winter in the UK we’ve not found it to be really practical to not be in a marina.
- In general, you will never find a marina that actively encourages liveaboards, exceptions include St Katherines which is v.expensive (London), Milford marina (Wales), We live on boats (Medway);
- Most if not all marinas have clauses that say you can’t live aboard. However, our experience has been with the exception of MDL most marinas will not stringently enforce the rules unless you cause them issues. Issues would be hanging your laundry on deck, construction work and anything you can think of that would annoy regular berth holders;
- Almost all marinas have a winter berthing offer which from our experience are more often than not taken up by liveaboards and as those are 6 months or less they don’t consider it to be liveaboard, you’re just visiting. Boatfolk also do a decent winter monthly offer so you can move around a bit but not all have space;
- MDLs for all their expense and to their credit do allow visiting yachts to stop for free during the day if you’re visiting an onsite concession i.e. the pub, chandlery or other services on site. I think we’ve probably done this twice in a dinghy we usually come into marinas for 1-2 nights because it’s more convenient and we get full shops done etc;
- Most marinas if you call ahead will be happy to have a few packages delivered but you should always call ahead to check, this is pretty normal as boats are always falling apart and their owners are forever ordering new bits to stick on them;
With all of the above in mind. If you’re looking for a marina and trying to figure out if they do/don’t allow liveaboards, the best thing to do is spend a week there as a visitor and then ask the office about what deals they have.
If it’s a swinging mooring you’re looking at there’s almost no way to know if you’re there every day or not so I wouldn’t be worrying about it.
Moorings vs. Anchoring
We generally prefer to anchor if we can. If the weather is crap it’s more stable for us to be on a long anchor than a short mooring chain. Potentially more reliable as well assuming you have a decent anchor e.g. Rocna or similar to stop you from travelling anywhere.
Winter (October/November – March)
- As a rule in the winter, we’ve been in a marina. It’s just too cold to be not plugged in with radiators and there’s no way we can generate enough power without the generator more or less constantly on to stay warm. If you had a wood burner and many do then you could potentially get around that but it wouldn’t be fun;
- Laundry is also a lot harder in winter than in warmer months. We usually do our light laundry onboard in a big ±30L bucket and it’ll dry pretty quickly. Fine in summer, less ideal in spring/autumn and not really a goer in winter;
- We’ve done winter in the Medway, Crouch, Thames and Plymouth. I’d say that they all have their pros and cons. Medway was friendly but the local area wasn’t great, Crouch was lovely but the pontoons in the marina weren’t salted so semi-lethal at times, the Thames was lovely but very pricey.
- April is kick out time for most winter berthing deals so we just left our winter berth in Plymouth;
- In general, we anchor rather than book seasonal buoys, this is mainly because we like to move around rather than be stuck in the same place. We work from home so this works out for us;
- Good anchoring spots so far have included rivers Orwell/Roach/Crouch/Medway/Swale, Hamford nature reserve, Poole harbour (I’ll DM you some spots), by Hurst Castle, Chichester Harbour;
- Average spots have included Portland bay, quite exposed to the wind but good for kitesurfing, right in front of Margate which is good only if the wind is offshore;
- Also good are the Folly mid-river pontoons, no power but good in a blow and a lot better value than the surrounding marinas;
Firstly disclaimer I’m not a lawyer. If you need good legal advice and are not a member of the RYA, I’d join. They’ve been invaluable in helping us with the occasional bump in the road with non-advice advice.
Byelaws may vary but you can generally anchor in most places as long as you’re not blocking traffic especially any port traffic. I’ve not yet found a river authority, but please correct me if there’s one out there, that doesn’t allow liveaboards or more importantly, has the authority to move you on. What they can do is charge harbour dues, these vary with Poole probably near the top in terms of cost.
Sitting at anchor isn’t a crime (yet) google the Benyon review about how this could change almost everywhere you’d want to anchor. It’s something that could impact all sailors and after significant correspondence with the RYA they don’t yet think is that big a deal. I do but hey ho.
What we have seen are places like the Crouch who have rules that marinas on the river shouldn’t have liveaboards. If you’re at anchor, however, we’ve never had an issue.
Last year during the first lockdown we were anchored in the Crouch.
While the river authority harbour person was very unhappy about it, the local marine police unit were very understanding of the fact that paying £1k/month wasn’t really in our budget given employment situations at the time, professional and helpful.
We stuck to the rules like everyone else, went to the shops only when needed and actually managed 21 days onboard at anchor at one point. Top tip, keep a few spare premium boxes of wine to break in case of emergency.