Is The Norfolk Broads Pro Liveaboard?

Pro liveaboard Norfolk Broads

Norfolk Broads Forum is pro liveaboard but are the 120 miles of waterways? Having lived on the Norfolk Broads in a boat full-time for 5 years I can conclude that it is far from sympathetic towards liveaboards.

I once spoke to a private boater on the subject and I recall him saying, ‘ there are liveaboards and there are liveaboards‘.  I couldn’t agree with the bloke anymore. He had hit the nail on the head with a bullseye.

There are effectively many different types of liveaboards and the spectrum is a huge one. On that note, it is quite naive of people to generalise on folks who have decided to live an alternative lifestyle by moving on to their boats.


I can honestly say that living on a boat for five years as a continuously cruising liveaboard was a true privilege. One that even the local newspaper was happy to write about in this article in the Eastern Daily Press.

Living on a boat Norfolk Broads

Waking every morning in a beautiful environment surrounded by wildlife really appealed to me. It was and is fantastic. However, it appealed to me because I was always moving from spot to spot. The idea of living on a boat in a marina or boatyard is repugnant to me. It would be like living in a caravan park. I know many folks who have spent years on a boat and never gone anywhere. They just sit in the boat in a marina season after season. Whilst there are many benefits to having a mooring, the fact that so many people do this and never go out in the boat tells me they are not really liveaboards. They are just people using a boat as a convenience.
Personally, I would have got bored of that within days let alone weeks.
Here I found that there were similarities between people who had caravans and went exploring and those that just stayed put on the caravan park.
I think if people wish to do this it defeats the purpose.


Touring the Norfolk Broads full-time is indeed very possible. The secret is to be fluid like the rivers. Just keep moving. The idea of mooring up somewhere for extended periods and blatantly refusing to move is not how to play the game. It ruins it for every other liveaboard.

Living On A Boat In Norfolk


The true liveaboard will not stand out from any other boat and whoever can do that has mastered the art of living aboard. Another notable fact is that one should never put anything on top of their boat. It could be a dinghy, bike, BBQ, pot plant or even fuel cans. The moment any boat has something stored on top, it attracts attention and creates an impression of overcrowding.

Living on a boat in winter Norfolk Broads


Generally, a lot of people seem to think that liveaboards are getting something for nothing but this is so inaccurate. A boat costs money and quite a lot to be on the Norfolk Broads.

Some folks just do not require a mooring because they are on their boats 24/7 and always cruising. Others who pay £1000 to £3000 a year for a mooring do so because they need to and have decided to. It doesn’t mean everyone else should follow suit.


If a boat has it’s tolls paid, boat safety certificate and is insured third party? Then it has every right to be on the waterways.
In my opinion, if a boat is untolled, uninsured and without a boat safety then it should be handled the same way as a car on the roads without tax paid. I believe that because this policy is not implemented, then the Norfolk Broads will continue to struggle with antisocial individuals who serve only as a negative element on these waterways. This system works just fine on the U.K. roads and it would on the Norfolk Broads too.

Untolled and uninsured boat Norfolk Broads
No Broads Tolls & Uninsured Boat

There exists an ancient right for people to navigate tidal waters. It dates back a very long way to times past when the English waterways were highways. When people obstruct navigation then they are breaking the law of the land. Trespass mooring is obstructing the waterways and really should be dealt with and quite simply handled. On that note it is important to know, understand and respect riparian law.


A lot of people sell their houses and move on to boats. This is particularly common with retired couples and pensioners. I have found this to be more so on the southern Norfolk Broads. The reason for this is because they are more likely to find a suitable mooring. I have met people with very expensive and well-equipped boats.

Another common choice with retired boaters is to live on their boats between April and October and then retreat back on land for the winter months. These liveaboards tend to go out for trips and go back to the mooring for a break and supplies. Many don’t leave the marinas.
Many boaters choose to stay in the boatyard quite simply because of the hire boats. The hire boat season is a difficult time for many private boaters. The levels of boat crashes, damage, and unruly behaviour are quite staggering. In fact, many have sold their boats because of the hire boats.
Some boaters deny it’s a problem. However, those who are on their boats full-time know exactly the scale of the problem.


I came about being a liveaboard purely by chance. I bought a boat to restore and then sell. After spending a couple of weeks on the boat I realised I really enjoyed it. Fortunately for myself, I had several commercial websites and online income streams and I was able to fund the lifestyle. Although there were concessions and I had to sell some cars and property as managing both was not sustainable.

People have lived on the waterways for ions and the Norfolk Broads is no exception.

The hire boat industry may be crazy but I wonder how many people perceive those boaters as liveaboards? The reality of the situation is that hire boats are inhabited full time between April and October with people living on those boats.


Truly the best time to be on the waters is when the hire boats have all gone. It is magnificent.


The last element of liveaboards is the troublesome type. These are the freeloaders. They will be uninsured, untolled and will trespass moor and never move. In many cases, they will leave rubbish in their path as well as was the case in this photo.

Trespassing on norfolk broads
A fly-tipping trespassing boat

Not only was the individual trespassing but fly-tipped as well. Then ultimately abandoned another sunken vessel which also was trespass moored and illegal. 

Liveaboard
Abandoned, uninsured, and no tolls


The reality of the situation can be broken down into two parts. Firstly the powers that be don’t do anywhere near enough to stop nuisance boaters, it is a situation that could be handled so easily and in an ethical manner. Secondly, this is a social problem which has manifested as a marine issue.
It is fair to say that In these cases we are not dealing with boaters at all and are in fact seeing people living on floating homes. Often these crafts will never move anywhere at all.


Nearer the city of Norwich, it is easier to see these social problems on the river. People with housing issues are dealing with homelessness by sleeping on boats. The problem is that many will not toll or insure their boats and will not move their boats around in coordination with local Broads bylaws.
Therefore this is a social issue and should be confronted by local councils. If people are claiming benefits then they should be able to claim housing benefit which could be used to fund moorings for these people to live their lives without obstructing navigation.


For the Broads Authority to evict so many people living on boats at Jenner’s Basin in Thorpe is one thing but socially there should have been greater intervention from local councils to help people. It is apathy and a lack of empathy that causes this issue to go without change. If local councils would help these people to moor then if they then decide not to toll their boats, it is a matter for the Broads Authority.

You are always going to have people in society with drink, drug, mental health, and housing issues. Indeed this is more prevalent nearer cities.

I think every boatyard and marina on the Norfolk Broads should be free to rent moorings to liveaboards should they wish. This should not be an issue requiring planning permission.

Those who don’t wish to contribute or pay their way just like with vehicles on UK roads should be dealt with exactly the same way.

After living on a boat for five years I can honestly say that I see no alternative. Without these measures the UK roads would be full of untaxed, uninsured cars so why should it be different on the waterways?

Despite really enjoying being a liveaboard it is the first time I have experienced prejudice. I experienced it online in ways that were quite shocking on websites that were supposed to be run by boaters for boaters.
All I saw was bigots and online abuse. I perceived this even from moderators who were supposed to be neutral and just moderating a forum’s posts. Such prejudice even included a moderator suggesting that liveaboards should not be allowed to use Broads Authority free 24 hour moorings. I believe the justification was that planning permission was needed for such boaters to stay that 24 hour period. Absolute nonsense and total prejudice. The hire boats are occupied for over 8 months a year and nobody minds them using the moorings. I think deep down there is deep-seated envy. I do recall other comments such as,’ we work’ etc.

Another very common comment is liveaboards being accused of overstaying on moorings. It’s important for folks to be aware of this nasty dark side because it is ubiquitous on the Norfolk Broads. To some, it may cause upset but when you understand the source of this bigotry it is very elementary and it is the people who have a problem at the end of the day.

This is a response I received from the Broads Authority when I submitted a Freedom Of Information request to the solicitor and monitoring officer. Oddly enough when replying he accused me of interrogating the authority when I asked for this information.

” Therefore “liveaboards” are the same as any other lawful user of a vessel 
in the navigation area or adjacent waters. BA 24 moorings have a “no 
return in 24 hours” rule, which has universal application.  Any vessel can 
return to a 24 hour mooring once 24 hours has elapsed since they left it.  
For private moorings, the matter is more complex; vessels which are moored 
in a hazardous manner can have action taken by the BA. The riparian 
landowner may wish to enforce trespass laws and longer-term mooring 
potentially invokes the Town and Country Planning Acts and the interests 
of the Crown Estates on tidal rivers. However, all these considerations 
apply equally to all vessels. “

My solution and advice are quite simple.
Keep a tidy boat.
Be legal with regards to tolls, insurance, and boat safety
Be fluid like the river and keep moving constantly.
If people have problems then, then those people have problems. It really is that simple.

One thought on “Is The Norfolk Broads Pro Liveaboard?

  • September 28, 2019 at 12:50
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    If you want to escape the rat race and want to be left alone if you want peace of mind in life then live aboards is the way forward. As in the paragraph when the hire boats leave… silence once again falls upon the land nature begins her chorus. Seriously guys do keep your boat tidy do take your rubbish away until you find a bin .And most of all help each other bickering is both childish and unreasonable behaviour you go to live on the broads to get away from that nonsense crime arguing fighting you go to live on a boat to get away from all that so come on lets all stick together and abide by the rules of the waterways do keep moving . Never seen a site that did not look better looking back..

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