Houseboat Living


Grand Canal dock is the setting for what will hopefully become a thriving new community in the area. Houseboat living is something that may seem impractical or expensive, but the people we spoke to on a sunny day in the dock told a different story.

The waterways family is spread out over the 1,000 or so kilometres of navigable canals and rivers of Ireland, but Grand Canal Dock is something of a hub. There are no permanent residents there yet, as only extended mooring permits have been granted to those in the dock.

“We only have 20 spaces for live-aboards, 20 extended mooring spaces and 20 for people travelling through,” Ifty Finn of Waterways Ireland told NewsFour. “We are waiting for the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to sign off on new by-laws, and until then it’s not possible to live here full-time.”

We met one boat owner called Dermot, who is originally from Co Cavan. “It’s something myself and my wife always wanted to do, and when we finally got around to looking into it we were quite surprised by how easy and practical living on a boat could be. We’ve been cruising on the Shannon and the Erne for about 10 years now, but we love the challenge of coming into the city.

It’s very physical but not only because of all the locks; the propeller can get tangled up with plastic bags and weeds and it’s a job in itself freeing them sometimes,” he said. “The social life is really great. When it comes to the city, most people only feel safe in Grand Canal Dock, but we regularly moor overnight along the populated parts of the Grand Canal.

People always come over to chat or ask questions so we usually invite them aboard. We’ve had musicians stop by to play for the evening, in return for a glass of wine or a few beers of course.”

As for the other boat owners on the waterways, Dermot said, “It’s not just meeting old friends from our travels that we enjoy, it’s all the new faces you constantly see along the way. It’s a close knit community, but spread out all over the country.”

We also met a narrow barge owner doing repairs and asked him two obvious questions: is it cold in winter, and are there rats to contend with? He told us, “It’s really easy to heat. I’ve a solid fuel stove that is more than enough, and it can actually get too hot inside when I light it. As for rats, I’ve never once had one aboard. You see them on the banks the odd time but they don’t come near the boat.”

Of all the people we met that day, not one was able to come up with a downside to this kind of living.

We’ll leave the last word to a gentleman called Brian. “You can buy a reasonable boat that you could comfortably travel and sleep in for the price of a good second-hand car, with minimal running costs and complete freedom of movement around the waterways of the country. What could be bad about that?”

By Steve Kingston