Meet the man who swapped a London flat for a river boat

Calum Henderson, 31, was splashing out almost £1.4k-a-month for a flat in Elephant and Castle when he watched Sarah Beeny’s ‘How to live mortgage free’.

Taking inspiration from the program, Calum found a brokerage selling the shell of a narrowboat for £44k.

In March 2019 he bought the boat and spent £50K renovating what would be his home over 12 months, using the £1.4k he saved monthly by not having to pay rent and an £8k loan.

After living on it for eight months, he sold it for £125k and bought a bigger boat, a 62-foot wide beam shell, in 2021 for £64k.

News Shopper: The inside of the boot.The inside of the boot. (Image: SWNS)

Calum spent eight months and £66k turning his new boat into a home, complete with a large kitchen and living room, a spare bedroom and an astroturf roof.

The renovations inspired Calum to quit his job as a hairdresser and become a boat fitter.

Meet the man who lives on the River Thames mortgage-free

Calum, who lives on the London canal system with his dog, Bilston, a cockapoo, 7, said: “It is a passion I never knew I had.

News Shopper: He was inspired by a TV show.He was inspired by a TV show. (Image: SWNS)

“When you have a boat there is always something to do, something to fix – it is like having a part-time job.

“I love the building process, we enjoy building the boats on the water.

“You can be in the thick of a building site and step outside and you’re on the water in the middle of nature.”

Calum said he “fell” into off-grid living after watching ‘How to Live Mortgage Free with Sarah Beeny’.

He said: “I was renting a one-bed flat in London at the time.

“I have always been interested in property development and there was a boat on the show which got us thinking.

“I was a trainee plumber at the time too and did some work on someone’s narrowboat bathroom.”

News Shopper: Callum now lives on a boat.Callum now lives on a boat. (Image: SWNS)

Calum did all the renovation himself and lived on the boat for a year with his ex-partner before selling it.

This time Calum wanted a bigger project and bought a 62-foot wide-beam boat shell in 2021.

Calum spent six to eight months renovating the boat, adding solar panels, underfloor heating, a large kitchen diner, and a bathroom complete with a bath and shower.

He paid for the new boat by using funds from his old narrowboat and using his monthly salary.

Calum said: “This boat is like my old boat but on steroids.

“We upgraded all the old systems, we added more storage and probably did a better job learning from past mistakes.

“This project took around six to eight months, usually it would take me three months to build but I had some client projects on at the same time.”

On the back of his two successful narrowboats, Calum launched Boat Fit Co, and he builds and renovates homes for people living off-grid on the water.


Since launching five years ago, he has built 10 narrowboats, consulted on six and part built a further 10.

He said: “With narrowboats, it is slightly more unregulated than houses.

“You have more control – you get to design and build it your way.

“You really need to consider the client lifestyle too – how much water are they going to need on board or how are they going to be using that space.

“You need to design a boat that they can live off-grid to suit their lifestyle.”

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