Homes on the water for sale in the heart of historic York

Motor Vessel Till'The �300,000 housboat in central York with its own freehold mooring.
Motor Vessel Till'The �300,000 housboat in central York with its own freehold mooring.
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Fancy a home on the river in Yorkshire’s most sought-after city? Sharon Dale reports on two spectacular liveaboards for sale in central York.

After living aboard his central York houseboat for 30 years, Ken Ainsworth has got used to questions from landlubbers who are fascinated by his floating home.

The terrace on the top deck of Motor Vessel Till

The terrace on the top deck of Motor Vessel Till

The most common is “does it flood?” The answer is a definite “no”. In fact, the boat is one of the driest places to be when the River Ouse rises. Neither does it bob about a lot so there is little danger of motion sickness.

“The boat is tied to the moorings with self-adjusting poles and chains,” says Ken. “It rises and falls with the water level but you don’t feel it. People who come on board are always surprised that it is so still but this isn’t a fibreglass structure that bobs like a cork, it weighs over 50 tonnes, so it takes some force to shift it.”

The strength and size of the barge together with its freehold permanent moorings and exceptional location account for its price tag of £300,000.

Freehold moorings are very rare indeed and these are close to Skeldergate bridge in Clementhorpe, just 400 yards from the bar walls. It’s a five-minute walk into the heart of the historic city and a two-minute walk on the riverside path to fashionable Bishopthorpe, which has been described as Yorkshire’s answer to Notting Hill.

The sitting room on Motor Vessel Till, which has mains services

The sitting room on Motor Vessel Till, which has mains services

The boat is also connected to mains water, electricity and gas and has a good broadband, wi-fi and a Sky TV connection. Ken bought Motor Vessel Till in 1986 after leaving the Army.

He could’ve bought a house but he wanted something different and his barge has proved to be a better investment, thanks largely to its mooring

“I looked at a bricks and mortar property for £14,000 and decided I’d rather have a boat. That house is now worth £230,000,” he says.

The 73ft by 35ft cargo boat was built in 1904 and had been retired from commercial operations when Ken first set eyes on it. It was little more than a sturdy iron hull with a lot of potential when he bought it but within six months it had been converted into a home for him, his partner and their four-year-old daughter. He has since modernised the interior and in the boat had a new steel bottom in 2008.

The Khululeka in Bishopthorpe is �88,000

The Khululeka in Bishopthorpe is �88,000

His home is equivalent in size to a three-bedroom house, he says. It has a hallway from bow to stern, a bathroom with a bath, a kitchen, a 15ft by 14ft sitting/dining area and three bedrooms. Outside, there is a sun terrace on the top deck.

The houseboat is liable for council tax and for an £800 river licence, the boating equiavlent of an MOT to make sure the vessel is fit to be on the water.

Ken and his partner are selling it to release equity and downsize, though if it doesn’t sell they will move and rent it as a holiday let – they already offer stays via Airbnb.

“I will miss it,” says Ken. “It is very peaceful because you are close to the city centre but just far enough away so you don’t hear the nightlife. It’s beautiful, especially at night when you can look under Skeldergate bridge and see the lights reflected on the water.”

Khululeka's living space has all mod cons and is served by solar power

Khululeka's living space has all mod cons and is served by solar power

If you can’t afford the £300,000 asking price for Ken’s boat, then there is a less expensive option. A little further down the river by Ferry Lane, Bishopthorpe, the Khululeka, which is Zulu for free spirit, is on the market for £88,000.

It doesn’t have a prized freehold mooring but it has been tied up at its Bishopthorpe site since August. The owner of the mooring is happy to talk to the new owner of the boat about the arrangement, which costs between £200 to £300 a month.

Khululeka also has a continuous cruise licence, which means it can travel the waterways and moor for up to two weeks in the same spot.

The vessel, a 60ft by 10ft wide beam, was built in 2013 by Viking Canal Boats in Poland to the owner’s specification.

Pete Ablitt and his wife, who are in their mid-50s, were keen to try life on the water after returning from a spell in South Africa and initially lived in an older boat before investing in a new one three years ago.

One of the main criteria with the new-build was to make it user-friendly and energy-efficient. So the boat is well insulated and, rather than relying on running the boat’s engine for two hours a day to charge the12v storage batteries, the couple installed solar PV panels. There is also the option to hook up to a mains supply at some moorings.

Khululeka's spacious sitting area

Khululeka's spacious sitting area

A gas bottle runs the cooker and costs about £15 a month and the boat is warmed by a 5kw solid fuel stove and radiators.

There is a large 1,000 litre water storage and a composting toilet, which means there is no need for pumping out sewerage.

Inside, there is a kitchen, a sitting room, office/single bedroom, bathroom with a bath and a shower, a double bedroom and lots of storage, including a shed for bikes.

Pete and his partner are selling to pursue fresh adventures, including renovating an old Landrover.

“We will miss the boat. We’ve had a wonderful life on here,” says Pete, who works in IT. “The best thing about it is being so close to nature.”

* The Motor Vessel Till houseboat in Clementhorpe has a guide price of £300,000 and the wide-beam Khululeka in Bishopthorpe is £88,000. Both are for sale through Reeds Rains, Micklegate, York. For details tel: 01904 655546, Motor Vessel Till is also available to rent through Airbnb, Both boats are in walking distance of the city centre and have easy access to Bishopthrope, York’s most fashionable area. Known as the Notting Hill of Yorkshire, it is home to the racecourse and to Bishopthorpe Road, known as Bishy Road, which has a host of vibrant independent shops and cafes.