The 10 years or so I spent living on the 'cut' were possibly 10 of the best years I spent living anywhere....
You end up being very in tune with the changes of the seasons etc and I certainly appreciated them far more than when living in bricks and mortar.
That said I was lucky to find free residential moorings in return for general maintainance and had a very nice quiet spot in the Macclesfield canal.
Back then it was a cheap way of living despite BWB (now canal and river trust) however its more expensive and involved now with mooring fees/boat licence/insurance etc etc and no doubt other ways that the canal and river trust have come up with to get money out of boaters.
Mobile phones/solar/mobile Internet etc all probably make things far more 'civilised' now too no doubt.