That is the question we were recently faced with after wasting an entire summer achieving Sims Lifetime Aspirations like Getting Married and Going on our Honeymoon.
When we returned from our trip, it had somehow become September and all those usual winter-prepping jobs that can normally be done at leisure over the summer had suddenly become entirely pressing and urgent.
Perhaps, we thought, it might be nice to get a winter mooring this year so that we might have a more permanent place in which to work on our floatyhome. Plus there was the enticing prospect of not having to move the boat in subzero (anything below 20ºc, for me) temperatures.
The next question was, where?
While we had been away we had left Albion in Rickmansworth near my mum’s house so that she could have eyes kept on her in case of unexpected sinking. But for a few months now our real destination has been Berkhamsted.
Ahh Berkhamsted, medium-sized historic market town, affluent commuter hub, home to castle (remains of), and the number one boating location of my heart.
I love Berkhamsted. By rights I should hate Berkhamsted, being as it is a slightly larger version of Clapham with only marginally fewer estate agents. But it is also so very beautiful with so very many places to walk the dog and there are so very many pubs and Waitrose is so very near to the canal and London is only slightly further away at just 30 minutes on the train and I love it.
So we began to wonder whether we shouldn’t make a longer-term commitment to Berkhamsted and get a winter mooring there.
At this point I should probably tell those of you who are normal solid-ground bricks-and-mortar house people (as opposed to floaty-feet drifty-bum boat people) that winter moorings are a thing that Canal and River Trust do to extort even more money out of you depending on how well you cope with being cold.
If – like me – you hate being cold, you can pay a small (large) sum to secure a little mooring spot of your very own for your choice of one, two, three, four, or five months thus negating the need to move your boat in the glacial weather and allowing yourself to stay inside next to the fire for the entire winter until you roast yourself into spring.
Sounds great, right? Sign me on up for one of those bad boys, you might say.
However winter moorings aren’t as amazing as they might seem and the reasons are threefold:
Onefold: Winter moorings are e.x.p.e.n.s.i.v.e. in the sort of way that requires a full stop between every letter. Yes okay it’s not as expensive as paying rent but, since we’re already having to shell out for a yearly license, it’s another expense we could be doing without. For example, a Band 1 super double-plus-good winter mooring with rings or bollards to tie to, full facilities, and nearby transport links (or in London zones 1-4) would have set us back about £700 for three months. That’s nearly as much as our license for an entire year.
Twofold: Winter moorings aren’t always that great. Not everywhere is Berkhamsted, after all. If you can’t afford one of the Band 1 moorings (as described above), there is a chance you could be paying to stay somewhere with no facilities and no transport links whatsoever. Although these are cheaper, you’re probably going to have to travel to empty your casette and fill up with water every two weeks anyway so you might as well just keep cruising.
Threefold: It turns out the reasons were only twofold.
And so we were left thinking, can we afford a winter mooring and do we even want one anyway? Isn’t boating in winter just as fun?
Spoiler: Yes we can, yes we do, and no it’s not.
But if you have yet to decide for yourself whether or not a winter mooring is a good idea you can always use this handy quiz:
Should I Take a Winter Mooring or Should I Not Take a Winter Mooring?
- Do you like being cold?
a) Yes I am a weirdo who likes being cold.
b) I don’t like being cold but I can cope with being cold if it is necessary.
c) No I hate being cold and will do anything to avoid it including paying large sums of money.
2. Do you like staying in one place for longer than two weeks?
a) No, staying somewhere too long makes me antsy for I am as free-spirited as a wild, untameable moorhen.
b) It might be nice to not have to move around if the weather was really miserable.
c) I like staying in one place for as long as possible and that place is my sofa and/or bed.
3. Does clambering over a wet and slippery lock sound like your idea of a good time?
a) DUH! Sign me up for a wet slippery lock party!
b) It’s not ideal but it’s not a big deal either.
c) Why would I want to be anywhere except my sofa and/or bed?
4. WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF THE CANAL FROZE OVER AND YOUR BOAT GOT STUCK AND YOU RAN OUT OF WATER AND YOUR TOILET WAS FULL AND IT WAS COLD AND STUFF?
a) I would fetch water from somewhere else, walk or drive my casette to the nearest Elsan point, and put the fire on – why are you shouting at me?
b) I’d be pretty stressed and it would probably make my winter a bit rubbish but I’m sure I could cope.
c) I would die, instantly.
Mostly a’s: You don’t need a winter mooring you big tough boatery boater. You are so at ease with winter you are probably a descendent of Jack Frost himself. Don’t waste your money, you beautiful wintry beast.
Mostly b’s: You’d probably enjoy a winter mooring but it also wouldn’t be a big deal if you couldn’t get one. Maybe take one just for one month to congratulate yourself on being so average.
Mostly c’s: You sound like a very rational and intelligent person who has made the wise decision to take a winter mooring for five years minimum. Enjoy spending all your ensuing time on your sofa and/or in bed.
When I took the quiz I got mostly c’s so we decided to spend the money and get a winter mooring in our beloved Berkhamsted.
Luckily for us, the allocated stretch in Berkhamsted is somehow one of the cheaper ones, despite having fairly good access to facilities and not being a huge walk from the station. Also luckily for us, I am an awesome wife and got up at six (A.M.) this morning to secure our spot since the Berkhamsted winter mooring is also one of the most popular.
Oh, did I not mention the winter moorings went on sale this morning?
Sorry, Berkhamsted’s sold out.