‘I save £3,000 a month after leaving dry land to live on a narrowboat’

Father-of-five James Posner, 44, renovated and moved into a 50-year-old narrowboat after his divorce left him facing life in a bedsit

Rikki Loftus
Wednesday 15 February 2023 16:11 GMT
James bought the boat in 2020 (Collect/PA Real Life)
James bought the boat in 2020 (Collect/PA Real Life)

A father-of-five who had been looking at London bedsits after his divorce now saves more than £3,000 a month and has the freedom to have his children come and stay after renovating and moving into a 50-year-old narrowboat.

James Posner, 44, a commercial property sector surveyor, documents his life on the boat through YouTube videos and said the narrowboat lifestyle is “London’s best kept secret” amid the cost-of-living crisis.

James, who has five children, Ava, 15, Arthur, 10, Florence, 10, Matilda, five, and Ivy, four, first began property hunting in London in 2020 after splitting from his wife of eight years and said he could only afford to rent either a room in a houseshare or a bedsit.

Unable to find accommodation suitable for his children to visit, James bought a narrowboat for £12,000 and spent a year making it ready for the water.

Overcoming some obstacles, including his floating home sinking at one point, James now lives in Hertfordshire on the Grand Union canal between Cow Roast and Rickmansworth.

“With the cost-of-living crisis, narrowboat living was the best decision I could have made,” he said.

“Property prices in London are massively expensive but I have so much financial freedom on the boat.

“It has been a learning curve, with the boat even sinking at one point while I was fixing it up, but I wouldn’t change my lifestyle.

“I plan to live on my boat for many years to come.”

When James’ relationship ended in 2020, he said he was struggling to find a place to live in London.

Having recently bought a family home just outside of Richmond, James had limited money available to find new accommodation.

He said: “I had very little capital, so I couldn’t afford to buy and even renting a one-bedroom flat was around £1,500 excluding bills.”

It had always been a dream of mine to live on a boat, so I thought it was time to do it

James Posner

He added: “The only properties I could afford to rent were either a room in a multiple occupancy home or a bedsit, which wouldn’t have been good for the kids.

“They would have been fed up and wouldn’t have wanted to visit.

“It had always been a dream of mine to live on a boat, so I thought it was time to do it.”

After finding a 50-year-old narrowboat for sale, James purchased it for £12,000, admitting he would need to spend “the same again” for it to be water-ready.

Over the next year, James lived on a boat yard while rebuilding the interiors.

He said: “The inside needed to be entirely gutted and it was basically like rough camping for the first year living on it.”

James said his children love spending time on the boat.

He said: “It’s really fun for them. When I was living at the boat yard while renovating, there were other families and people there to socialise with.

“We were like a small community of nomads.”

(PA Real Life)

From the day he bought the boat, James has documented the repairs on his YouTube channel.

He said: “It’s annoying because I’d spent years telling my kids that YouTube wasn’t a proper career and now I’m regularly posting on there.

“It started off as a way to send updates to a friend and the channel grew from there, and now I post regular updates about life on the boat.”

In the summer of 2021, after a year of renovations, James finally tried to lower the boat into water when disaster struck.

“I’d been fixing it for a year when I had it craned into the water, but it immediately sank,” he said.

“It was very frustrating, we had to pull it out of the water and back onto land.”

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He added: “The bottom of the boat needed fixing and there was a point where I wondered if I should scrap it, but I kept going.”

After spending a total £16,000 on boat repairs, James finally set sail two months later and has been living on his narrowboat ever since.

Now, the dad-of-five saves thousands of pounds each month.

“Living on the boat has given me so much freedom and, considering it only costs me around £300 a month with all my bills and expenses, I don’t know why more people aren’t doing it,” he said.

“I always say narrowboat living is London’s best-kept secret.

“I’m constantly amazed that it’s a floating home with everything I could possibly need with unlimited outside space.”

Living in a close community that moves around and is so sociable is really great. As long as I’m able to, I’ll be living on my narrowboat for a long time

James Posner

With all James’ expenses combined, including fuel, gas and electric, canal and river trust licence, insurance through Insure4Boats and general maintenance, he estimates his outgoing to be around £300 a month, and says he saves over £3,000 each month.

He said: “It’s been a massive learning curve. I’ve had to become like a builder, a carpenter, a plumber, a gas man, and an engineer overnight.

“It’s not an easy lifestyle, but everyone chips in.”

He added: “I’m surprised more people who are struggling with the housing market aren’t snapping up narrowboats.

“Living in a close community that moves around and is so sociable is really great. As long as I’m able to, I’ll be living on my narrowboat for a long time.”

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