Man ‘very happy’ with houseboat move as energy costs hit land-dwellers

·3-min read

A Londoner who decided to escape soaring rent prices by moving into a houseboat said he is “very happy with my decision” amid rising energy costs for land-dwellers.

Martin Walsh, 25, moved in to a houseboat on the River Lee and the Regent’s Canal in 2021, as he could not find affordable accommodation on land in London.

He told the PA news agency: “The rental economy last year was just crazy, to secure a place to live many were paying way above what places were worth.

“My options were either take out a loan for a houseboat, live in the middle of nowhere or live in a box room in a flat in London.”

Mr Walsh decided to risk moving into a boat called China Rose, a 50ft narrowboat built in 1987.

Martin Walsh moved into a houseboat
Martin Walsh moved into a boat called China Rose (Amyrose Enskat/PA)

He said: “As bills have exploded for the average person, I am very happy with my decision to move onto the water.”

With the newly announced price cap, Londoners are facing even higher costs.

Mr Walsh said: “I find the rise extremely concerning for the land-dwellers but I am largely metaphorically insulated from it.

“My gas canisters used for cooking have increased in price, but not too significantly. As more countries are burning coal and some factories have delayed closing the demand has obviously increased.

“All in all, I expect my winter bills to go from £60 a month to £120 maybe. I will probably burn more wood than usual to try and get around the price rises.”

Mr Walsh, a production designer, pays £1,000 a year to live on the canals and rivers but has to move every two weeks.

He said: “I moved on to the boat to save money, the mooring fees in London are absolutely crazy, so to pay for permanent mooring would negate any money saving.”

Mr Walsh pays £500 a month in repayments on a loan he took out to pay for the boat, and while he is pleased with his decision to take to the water, he warned that upkeep can cost a lot more than for a regular house or flat.

Martin Walsh
Martin Walsh said boats are a lot of work (Alys Bowen/PA)

“Although things can go wrong in a house, things can really go wrong in a boat,” he said.

“There is maintenance, unexpected costs and a lot of upkeep that you have to keep on top of, or you can face a bill of several thousand pounds.

“Boats are a lot of work, and you do need to have a bit of common sense, to ensure that your boat doesn’t sink.”

While many others are struggling to afford their rent and bills, Mr Walsh considers himself lucky.

He said: “Whilst the cost of living does still affect me through food and other consumables, I am greatly insulated from heating costs, as my heating is from coal and wood fires normally.

“Diesel for the engine as well is a fairly insignificant cost, and it may be over a year between filling up, as I travel relatively short distances.”

He aims to live on the boat for the next four to seven years, before selling the boat and moving ashore – he hopes the sale will give him enough money for a deposit.

He said: “I never looked back and thought I maybe made the wrong decision.

“But sometimes a washing machine and a bit more space would go down a treat. I did not move on to the boat for lifestyle, it was more for necessity.”