Narrowboat living is an enjoyable and economical solution to the Oxford housing problem. Although it does involve a certain amount of work, many people find the advantages far outweigh the minor privations, and as a result most of the Agenda 21 Mooring community would not live in any other way.
completely detached, affordable home in one of the best parts of Oxford
(where the cheapest one bedroom flat seels for 250,000 pounds!)
must load/unload all utilities manually (water, coal, calor gas and sewage)
via wheelbarrowand bicycle cart
Specifics of Harmonia:
Oxford moorings are hard to get, and they are not making any more of them; with skyrocketing real estate prices, boats with these moorings have also appreciated substantially, will continue to do so. The Agenda 21 mooring community was created in 2000 under a European Union initiative providing for official sanction of traditional communities, and after lengthy negotiations between the Oxford Boaters' Co-Op and British Waterways. Agenda 21 boaters are permitted to moor anywhere within five designated zones between St. Edward's field and just north of the Wolvercote lock.
According to our constitution, "Oxford Boaters form a strong, inclusive and supportive communitywith a committment to an ecologically sound lifestyle. To support this, the moorings have the unique feature of being residential but non-fixed site moorings with low services
Space. 54 x 7 feet, of which the back 10 feet are engine room/toilet,
and the front 8 or so are decking.
The front deck is sheltered by a cratch and cover to serve as a mudroom
and prevent rain from getting into the bilges. It can also be used in
nice weather for eating/sitting. The rest of the boat is living room,
kitchen and bedroom, with the bedroom slightly separated from the rest.
Harmonia has loads of light, including two new hatch-style windows
by the bed. There is a double futon and folding table in the living room,
built-in book case, several cupboards, 12V CD/Radio and Wind-up/Solar
Heating: solid fuel stove with hot water radiator system. Wood or coal may be used. There are two sheltered lockers on the forward deck which can hold 10 bags of coal and kindling. The roof may be used to store a whole winter's worth of coal. Approximate heating cost for the winter, for those not home during day, is about 250 pounds of coal. A coal boat makes boat-to-boat deliveries about once a month.
Electricity is a luxury on any boat. That said, Harmonia has, I
believe, more alternative energy capacity than any other boat in the community,
with 3 Siemens solar panels and a windmill. These feed 2 12V leisure batteries
(more could be added), which in turn power 2 water pumps, electric lights,
a CD/Radio, and an open set of positive/negative wires running half the
boat length for various 12V applications as needed (e.g. you could add
an electric refrigerator, 12V DVD-player, and any of the other 12V appliances
sold at caravan shops). There is also an inverter for creating 240V power
for e.g. recharging a mobile phone, running computers, etc. This uses
a lot of energy and you have to learn the knack of managing your resources
and generative capacity. In the summer power is superabundant, but of
course beginning from November until February the solar panels go through
a power dip; the windmill compensates for this, but of course depends
on wind. As a backup, therefore, there is a Honda EU10i petrol generator,
with both 12V and 240V output; with this, one can have unlimited electricity.
Hot Water and Cooker run on Calor Gas bottle, which goes in small locker at very front of boat. One bottle lasts me at least a month, and costs about 15 quid. Water tank is under bed and must be filled from hose/tap on towpath supplied by British Waterways. Water lasts about 1 week for one person, depending on use.
Refrigeration: None. From late autumn - early spring this is not much of a problem, as perishables may be kept outdoors. Note that this arrangement is well suited to a vegetarian or vegan diet, but requires making small shopping stops every 1-3 days for perishables. They do make 12V refrigerators, however, and there is a space under the cooker where one could go.
Laundry/Washing: None. The nearest laundrette is South park road in Summertown (5-10 minutes bike). Some boaters do install washing machines, and run them off the generator.
Post: Theres a communal locked postal box at St Eds. Address: Narrowboat Harmonia, Boaters' Box, Oxford Canal Towpath, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 7AH.
was built in 1986 by an amateur builder; as such it had several indiosycnrasies
that I have had corrected since buying the boat in 1999. After a hull
survey two years ago by the toughest inspector in Oxfordshire, I implemented
a number of recommended measures to extend the life of the hull: several
steel struts welded at strategic points, cratch built, floor inspection
hatches cut, several external apertures welded over (there from a previous
engine installation), installed new water system and drained/dried previous
tank, added 10 sacrificial anodes to outer hull, filled in pitting with
zinc epoxy, and applied thick coating of zinc epoxy tar. The toal cost
of this work was 1,700 p.s. Average thickness is 4.5 millimeters, which
is not bad. If the steel work is properly cared fortaken out of
water, re-blacked and re-inspected every 3-4 yearsit can
last almost for ever. A final recourse, however, is always to
replate a boat, which costs about 6,000 quid, but essentially gives
you a new boat.
water out of bilges is essential. Therefore cratch cover must be kept
closed at all times unless you are home and can see that it is sunny
out. It should be shut as soon as any rain starts. The front hatches
must stay covered with a tarp. Any new corrosion in front lockers
can be deducted from deposit.
I paid 22k in 1999, without a mooring. Harmonia now has an Agenda 21 mooring, which have sold for 10k even without a boat on it. I have since put it about 10k worth of tangible improvements (i.e. not counting routine maintenance): 3 solar panels, 12v-240v inverter, windmill, recoditioned engine, properly mounted engine, petrol generator, cratch, hull work, new ful stove and radiator system, hatch windows, new cooker, new water system and pumps, bicycle trailer. Given this, the unique location/nature of the Agenda 21 community, and the fact that the cheapest hovel one could buy, even as far out as Wolvercote, is 135k +, I believe that the boat is worth 40-45k.