The idea of living on a boat in the middle of a city is undoubtedly an attractive one - not only are you in close contact with nature but, at any time, you can up-anchor and sail off into the distance. Residential moorings, however, are like gold dust in many areas, with prices varying accordingly. Even so, the cost of a floating home can work out much cheaper than a traditional one made of bricks and mortar, and you don't have to sacrifice the comforts of life - marinas often have club houses with extra showers, lavatories, and a bar. If you are thinking of trading land for water, and plan to travel round the country or abroad, then knowledge of sailing is said to be essential to avoid dangerous situations. Boat owners are quick to praise life on the waterways but also stress that looking after a boat involves hard work and constant attention. Here is the cost for your first year.

The boat For a reliable, seagoing, 12-metre, four-birth boat, expect to spend pounds 40,000. (You can pick up old steel boats for as little as pounds 20,000, but if you're planning on travelling abroad it is worth paying extra to ensure that you have a seaworthy vessel.)

Mooring costs Residential mooring, pounds 2,000. This includes a pontoon, drinking water and, in some cases, security.

Bills Electricity, pounds 600; council tax, pounds 600; "pump time" - emptying the chemical toilet - pounds 5 a go (total pounds 120). (Boat dwellers tend to use the harbour/dock facilities to keep pump time to a minimum.)

Maintenance Boat owners have to pay for a "lift-out", to get the boat out of the water, pounds 100; basic repairs and a repaint, pounds 200.

Summer holiday Travelling by boat is one of the cheapest ways of having a great holiday. Cherbourg is easily accessible for a long weekend, but for a two-week summer holiday you can buy a licence for the French canals, pounds 50 for a month; fuel, pounds 100; mooring, pounds 15 a night, pounds 210.

Total pounds 43,980