Boater Stuart Tyler found himself a little out of his depth when he tried to find someone to insure his car, because he doesn’t have a regular postcode.
And if he had a postcode this week, he probably wouldn’t have one next, because he is a continuous canal boat cruiser who spends his life touring the country’s most beautiful canals and navigable rivers.
And, under British Waterways continuous cruiser rules, he can only moor somewhere for a maximum of 14 nights.
Wherever he goes though, his car, a Volvo S60 Turbo, goes too.
“You can only travel at 4 miles an hour on the canal so you can’t get very far in a day,” said Mr Tyler. “I am partially disabled and I need easy access to the car so when we tie up at a new mooring I travel back and collect it the same day. I’ve never had a problem.”
But Mr Tyler’s aquatic nomadic lifestyle is at odds with policies offered by most insurers.
“Most policies say you have to notify your insurer if you change your address, and I am changing mine at least every 14 days,” he explained. “I may only be a couple of miles further down the towpath, but if I don’t tell them I have moved, it is down to the insurance company to decide if I am still covered or not.
“It’s a very one-sided affair. The policies offered simply aren’t flexible enough.
“They say I have to notify them because the insurance rates changes from area to area, so I offered to pay the most expensive rate, but they wouldn’t let me do it.
“I must have approached 20 or 30 different insurance companies, brokers too, but they all have the same notification statement which in effect is their get out clause.”
After a lot of toing and froing the editor of the boating magazine Towpath Talk put Mr Tyler in touch with Herts Insurance Consultants (HIC), who have managed to provide a suitable policy.
“I am amazed to be the first person to go to them with this sort of problem,” he said.
He feels there must be many people in exactly the same boat, or one very similar, regarding their unusual insurance needs.
“There are hundreds, if not thousands of people who do exactly as I do, cruise the canals and move their car as they go,” he added.
“But the insurance companies say if you take the car and the boat away from the marina you are moving home and you would no longer be insured, which is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.”
The 70-year-old, who is currently moored near Southport, fears other boaters may have a notional insurance policy but that they may find themselves without the cover they thought they had paid for if they need to make a claim.
And, he feels, the problem may not be restricted to boaters: “The same rules must surely apply to caravan owners because what is the difference between a caravan and a boat? They are both mobile homes but one goes on the road and one goes on the water.”
Andy Morton, manager at HIC, said the broker’s Walkabout policy was able to provide cover for anyone touring the UK, whether tourists in a camper van or motorhome, or continuous cruisers like Mr Tyler.
“It doesn’t entirely surprise us that Mr Tyler had these issues getting car insurance, because the vast majority of mainstream insurers will require a fixed address with a post code to provide cover,” he added.
“They don’t have the flexibility of a specialist broker, who can look beyond the obvious and find niche insurers prepared to offer cover that fits people’s actual lifestyles rather than their own strict underwriting criteria.”
Mr Tyler, his wife Angela and beloved South Angus Border Collie, Gem, have been cruising for nine years having sold their house in Nottingham.
Home is now a 37-tonne dutch barge, 12ft 6in wide and 60ft long. The previous owners were keen art lovers and named the boat after Joseph Wright, the 18th century landscape and portrait painter from Derby.
Despite the car insurance frustrations, Mr Tyler wouldn’t swap his idyllic life on the river for anything in the world, though Angela admits she does rather miss a good long soak in a hot bath.
When they bought the barge the plan was to take it across to France but poor health and a lengthy period of hospitalisation put that idea on hold.
For now they content themselves with life in the slow lane cruising mostly in the north of England.
During their time they have enjoyed some great canal journeys but their favourite is the cruise across the top of the Pennines on the 127 mile 91-lock Leeds and Liverpool Canal, slipping gently past picturesque places such as Gargrave and Skipton.
For now they are moored near Southport, Lancashire, and their car is just a few steps away. But tomorrow, who knows where the mood will take them?
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