Water, Water, Everywhere – but not a Drop to Moor On

Despite weeks of consideration, I still can’t get my head around the vast volumes of water and stretches of river bank and quayside in this great city of London… And then how few residential moorings there are on them.

The few there are are fiendishly hard to:
a) find, as there is apparently no helpfully centralised place to find them all listed. The DBA http://www.barges.org/ ostensibly has one that’s member-led, but as most of its members are retired continental cruisers from what I can make out, it makes little provision for residential moorings (and certainly not comprehensively). Maybe when I’m in a more magnanimous mood I should give them ours, it’s been such a schlep to compile… When I was looking for the narrowboat, Inland Waterways gave me a ‘starter pack’ with a list of all the moorings and contacts. It was admittedly a good four years out of date, but gave us an invaluable start nevertheless. It strikes me ten-odd years on that boaters are better with paper than digital, by and large (a rash charge to make I know, but I’m feeling reckless).
The other thing moorings are hard to… is:

b) get onto, because they are either full with a 10-year waiting list, or the people running them are one or a combination of the following:

– Snobby (actually perfectly fair enough if they want to prevent their pretty marina descending into a noisy slurry of rust-buckets and provoking the local land-lubbing community, but funny to be reminded)
– Incredibly rude and unhelpful (no names, but it’s one of the few tube station names which begins&ends with the same letter. And, obviously, near water)
– ill-acquainted with internet technology (through which one is requested to submit one’s petition for any kind of attention) and therefore freaking impossible to get hold of

Occasionally, someone gets back to you and is so nice and friendly and normal that the others (almost) fade from memory. It all starts to feel like it might just fall into place… And that’s where we’re at now: hopeful, and more waiting.

The new mooring managers at Fresh Wharf in Barking have just taken over their duties, and having been for a little nosey on the spur of Saturday morning, we’re now waiting on tenterhooks with all things crossed to hear back from them as to whether the space they think they have free is indeed free for us.

It’s not pretty – it’s on the edge of an industrial estate wedged between the Roding river and the North Circular – but it’s friendly, affordable, within zone4, and they are wholly unbothered by our working on the boat to get her up to scratch. We even saw one helpful-looking chap wielding a welder as we left, which was exciting on a number of levels.

I do have substantial concerns about how Oscar will cope with/survive the industrial estate which I’ve not yet decided how to deal with (especially on top of our pre-existing ‘moving a cat onto water’ concerns), but overall it’d be a vast improvement to our new life aboard, and our finances, if we didn’t have to spend the summer in Kent. Not that it wouldn’t be as blissful and bucolic as anyone could hope for – sadly blissful&bucolic don’t come for free…!

So… While we wait, we are packing our boxes in readiness to move from our gorgeous and happy first home together on the 20th April, putting all our stuff into storage and taking a suitcase to stay with friends up the road for a week, while we wait for the boat to arrive.

Then hopefully on the 27th, we’ll be taking essentials back out of storage again and moving on board, with our amazing family pitching in all weekend to help us get settled -fitting electrics, sanding floors, lending camping stoves and cool boxes and generally being awesome.

And THAT is an extremely exciting thought.


9 thoughts on “Water, Water, Everywhere – but not a Drop to Moor On

  1. Renting wet property seems to be a challenge, but I do wish I could be there to help with the move. Seems like an adventure from here, and a time when a cake would be in order. Happy boating Owl and Pussycat.

  2. Melissa l says:

    My friend lives in the flats by here and has a cat that goes outside who seems perfectly happy. I live in barking, It’s not beautiful but it is handy and people use the stretch of river a lot so you see quite a different side to it all.

    • Thanks Melissa, we’re really excited – Barking itself is lovely and friendly and super well-connected – we had a little horror story of a boat cat who’d died on the industrial estate recently, that’s all. He’s a total chicken so in real terms it’s unlikely to pose a problem! Thanks for reading – always a pleasant surprise to learn people are! And maybe see you soon in Barking…

  3. Ben says:

    LOVE that you’ve added a liquid element to the ‘tube stations that start and finish with the same letter’ game, Pussycat xx

  4. Tristan Thomas says:

    Dear Pussy Cat,

    I’m also looking at making the move onto the water and was wondering whether you could share any of the experiences you had e.g. who did you use as a broker, what was your experience on pricing e.g. extent to which asking prices are haggled down, where there could be mooring possibilities etc.

    Thanks in advance for anything you can share. Thomas.Tristan at bcg.com.

    Best wishes,


    • Hi Tristan, happy to. Don’t know if you have time but I started this blog around the time we decided to do it so it’ll tell you our specific experience – we did it via Richard Weldon of Dutch Barges (dutchbarges.co.uk), the way he manages the process is to find barges going for the price you’ve agreed and agree a same day deal so there’s no fading about for days or weeks while everybody changes their mind and tries to negotiate… The Dutch tend to do less paperwork and more verbal agreement and he helps navigate and simplify that process. Theoretically the value of boats appreciates as soon as you get them over the channel and his commission is built into the one-off price you pay so we thought it was pretty good value – we certainly couldn’t have done it without him (how good is your Dutch?!)

      Hope this helps – have a flick through some of the earlier posts and let me know if you’ve got any other questions I can help with

      All best, Anna

    • Hi Tristan:

      We used Richard Weldon at Dutch Barges (.co.uk) – not sure what other options there are for buying in Holland and bringing over but he’s enormously knowledgeable, experienced and decent which, given our lack of both the former, was extremely reassuring! It’s also quite a complex, unfamiliar process and we appreciated the extent to which he simplified it – we paid a flat price which was agreed when our offer on the boat was accepted and included the sourcing of all options for our price bracket, (we paid for the trip to Holland to see them all as he gets time wasters) notary fees, survey, transport over the channel etc which he took care of, as well as any repairs that needed undertaking to make it viable on inland waterways. The flip side was that we lost some control of the process and it was sometimes extremely hard to extract any information as to what was going on – especially when the inevitable (ad in our case excessive) holdups occurred).

      In terms of negotiation, you can always negotiate(!) but your position will be improved if you look in the winter as they’ll be keen to sell with fewer alternatives on the horizon before the spring. It also means you get to see the boat in the worst weather conditions so you can spot warning signs you’d otherwise miss in summer.

      Moorings: there are loads but availability is an issue. Also depends on how long your boat is (and how pretty). Ours is relatively long at 27m so we’re limited in where we can put her. We’re currently at Fresh Wharf in Barking, alternatives are Reeds Wharf or Hermitage on the Thames (tidal and lots of ferry traffic so not great for the hull), or there are various further up the Thames which are nice but expensive… Limehouse is an option, or you could get one more like 80ft that will fit through the canal locks which will open up the whole Grand Union for you. Out of London there are moorings all over the place though presumably you’ll want a residential one, which are rarer. The Medway has loads, and we can get up the Thames as far as Oxford before it all gets too tight. Annoyingly there’s no single place where they’re all collated (possibly due to the range of needs/ piece of string issue I mentioned earlier) but they’re not too hard to find with a bit of research. I also joined the Dutch Barge Association – their magazine is helpful and the classifieds often turn up interesting ideas re boats and possible moorings.

      Hope that answers everything – I think I started this around the time we first went to holland to window shop so it’s probably worth trawling back through the blog if you want more on our specific experience.

      Shout if you have any other questions I can help with. I’m dead chuffed you got in touch – that’s why I started this thing in the first place!
      All best,


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