Friday, 2 September 2011

Any Questions? V.4: Mooring in Cambridge

In light of the fact that lots of our new readers are not necessarily boaters, I've decided to start a regular(ish!) feature called 'Any Questions?'. So, if there's anything about narrowboating, or living afloat  that you're curious about then please get in touch, by email, facebook, twitter, comments or formspring! Here's today's question and answer.
This is a question I get asked regularly in emails: "I would like a mooring in Cambridge. How can I get a city centre mooring like yours? Are there any other places nearby where I could moor?"

Cambridge is a wonderful place to moor, hence city centre moorings like ours are in demand, unsurprisingly! On British Waterways water, moorings are sold off by auction unless they are on private land. In Cambridge, the moorings are managed by the City Council who run a waiting list. You can find out how to add your name to the list on their website. However, it takes years to get to the top of this list of 80+ names so put your name down asap if you are even thinking about it - there's no obligation to take it up should you be offered it. They say it takes 3-5 years. It took us 2.5, but it varies. Also, if you have a widebeam boat (>7ft) then although you should put your name on the list just in case, it's best to give up all hope of ever getting one - widebeam licences very rarely change hands and although they are on the same list, people waiting for them just float to the top and stay there. Clearly getting a central mooring is not going to happen straight away even if you have a narrowboat so if you have a boat and want to live in this area you have a few of options.

1) Advisable. Get a space in a commercial marina. There are a few within commuting distance of Cambridge, and if you have a car, are perfectly nice places to live. This list is fairly comprehensive, although there are others along the Ouse towards Huntingdon and Bedford or further North on Brandon Creek. Some, like Cathedral at Ely and Jones' at St Ives have public transport connections, but on the whole you would need a car. In my opinion this is the only realistic option. Get a marina mooring out of town and sit out the years until you get the letter saying you have a city centre spot. Or just stay put, out of town, in a nice countryside location. Be aware that not all marinas accept live-aboards so it's best to speak to people who moor there when you go to have a look at the place to find out what the owner's stance is. The other advisable option is to get an Environment Agency Wild Mooring. You find a stretch of riverbank that is suitable and if the EA owns it they can let you moor there legally for a fee. If it's owned by a farmer, or someone else and you can make contact, you can pay them instead, I think. There are more details here, with a map of some currently available Wild Moorings. There's several in Littleport.

2) Unlikely. Find a private mooring. There are few places just outside Cambridge which are run on an 'ad hoc' basis by private land owners: at Brown's Field (Fen Ditton), Horningsea, and above Bottisham lock. None of these sites advertise their moorings and generally are passed on by word of mouth. By far the best way to get yourself a spot at one of these is to go there in person and find someone to talk to. This method is governed purely by luck and by 'who you know'. You may be lucky, like we were.

3) Inadvisable. Hop about on the visitor moorings in the area. The EA/Cam Conservancy does not have a 'Continuous Cruising' licence option. Each of the visitor moorings provided by GOBA (Great Ouse Boating Association), the Environment Agency, and the City Council give you 48hrs. So you have to move every other day in order stay with the rules. We did this quite often for about 6 months, because although we had a mooring at Upware marina, we didn't have a car and there are no buses from the village so it was not feasible for us to stay there all the time. Of course, there are boats who remain on the moorings for longer than they should, relying on the apathy of the navigations authorities. But basically, attempting to just use the visitor moorings is Really Bad Idea and I would advise against it strongly. Either you move every other day (this soon loses its charm) or you flout the rules. The local navigations authorities don't admittedly have a history of actually doing anything about it, but they claim that they will chuck you off the list or take you to court (this has happened) if they decide you have flouted the rules one too many times. A risky strategy.

4) Highly inadvisable. Find a space on the infamous 'railings'. Along Riverside, just north of Elizabeth Way bridge in Cambridge, there is a stretch of river of which all the authorities have refused to take ownership. There is a mix of boats, some derelict, some well cared for, but all of them cannot leave their spot without fear of someone nicking it while they are away. There is an ongoing battle between local residents and the council to try and get the council to claim ownership and ban mooring there. The Cambridge News reports the history of this area.

You can see the answers to previous questions about living afloat here!

If you are after a boat as well as a mooring near Cambridge, ours is now for sale! 

twitter // facebook // email // follow // any questions?


  1. Oh thank you for sharing the advice! I cannot wait to continue reading your new feature! Ever since holidaying on a canal boat last year the Mr and I keep saying one day we would like to live on one (but there are other places we'd like to live first!) I love reading about your life on a nb. Makes me want to climb into one tomorrow!

    xo Amy

    PS You should have a lovely blog award! I tagged you here.

  2. The three places I would try for residential marina moorings, all within about 25-35 minutes of Cambridge are Isleham Marina, Popes Corner on the Cam and Upware Marina also on the Cam, which is where I am.