A floating lifestyle in Hackney

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By Hasti Razaghi

Walking down the canal in Hackney,  one notices a lot of boats in different sizes and shapes. Old and new, some seem empty while others are inhabited by people who are either working, relaxing with their dogs or enjoying a cup of coffee in the open air.

On a warm, sunny afternoon, lots of people are outside making the most of the spring weather.  Living on a houseboat appeals to many as a lazy Bohemian lifestyle, enabling boat dwellers to travel wherever and whenever they want, always exploring and never needing to settle in one specific place.

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But it doesn’t really work that way. Once you have decided on a place to float,  you’ll need to get insurance, a license, and to fix a mooring. That’s not as easy – or as cheap – as it may appear,  since the price depends on the area and its popularity, as well as the length of the boat.

It all really comes to supply and demand, which is similar to the ongoing housing crisis in London. People want safety and the best value for money, and landlords and other companies know that.

Laurie Watkins, 30, boat builder in Springfield, Hackney said: “It’s not like it was many years ago, it has become more of a business than people who really enjoy working and living on boats.”

Many people who move into boats do it because it’s cheaper than renting a flat. But with prices going up and the added financial and physical responsibility of taking care of your home on the canal, it’s like a part-time job that many don’t have the time to do.

“The prices go up every year, and it’s more demanding but more enjoyable,” Watkins said.

It’s a commitment that many don’t realise. Firing up the central heating can take up to two hours, and the allure of a chemical toilet can quickly wear thin.

On the other hand, barge life is cosy and simple, so next time you walk around the canal and want to make a big lifestyle change – make sure you know what you are getting into.

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