Living on a Houseboat in London

Boat dwellers are not the same as landlubbers. For a start, you may really like your condo, but you’re not likely to describe it as “a love affair.”

And buying a houseboat starts with love at first sight. “You see a picture of a boat, carry it around with you…that’s my boat you say, and you do what you have to do to buy it,” says Nick Symes. Nick’s been brokering houseboat sales in London ever since he piloted his own Belgian barge across the English Channel and up the Thames, and renovated her into his own riverboat dream home.

And I’m a romantic, too. I’ve only been in London for a day and I’m already doing the math on The Pelican, a 1928 Humber Keel going for $247,000. The cargo hold is now an artist’s studio and there are two bedroom cabins and a kitchen. Moored in a dock off the Thames beside Battersea Bridge, it’s only a 20-minute bus ride to the center of town.

Despite being 17 miles from the sea in the heart of one of the world’s largest cities, you live to the rhythm of the tides here, where sea gulls whirl overhead as neighbors chat over tea on deck. This is as far from the frenetic pace of Picadilly as you can imagine.

But it’s hard to stay faithful. I can also imagine a new life with Wapping Lady, a Severn narrow boat moored near Canary Wharf for sale at $165,000. The gentle lap of water on the keel…a fishing line thrown out the bedroom porthole…the freedom to cut loose and sail away… Every boat has a story.

Join the tight-knit community of boat owners at Poplar Dock near the Millennium Dome and you’ll live next to a former North Atlantic ice breaker, a barge that plied the English coast in the 1920’s, and a Dutch barge that plied the canals of Amsterdam…in Chelsea you’ll find an entire marina of landing craft used in the 1944 Normandy invasion…each remodelled to the tastes of the owner.

Living on a London houseboat is like living in a gated community on the water…often with the option of cruising off down river. There’s a village vibe. Neighbors know each other…pet each other’s cats…help each other with odd jobs…there’s a mix of people, professions…but they all have one thing in common…they’re all in love with their boats. If you fancy falling for life on the water too, a houseboat could be for you.

In my article in the current issue of IL magazine, I tell you more about houseboats for sale, tips on where to moor, the secret of what to ask when buying, and more. You can subscribe here and get instant access to this issue.

Editor’s Note: Learn more about England and other countries from around the world in IL’s daily postcard e-letter. Sign up for these free daily postcards here and we’ll send you a FREE report: The United Kingdom—The Home of Shakespeare, Royalty… and Affordable Real Estate.


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