In 2011, when Grace and I finally had the retirement-opportunity to realise our long-held dream and buy a narrowboat to live on, we’d had quite a few canal holidays. Lots of experience, we thought, albeit only in week-long stints. But actually making a 60′ by 6’10” steel tube into our home proved to be a rather different matter. Living in a house, space isn’t much of an issue. Then you start trying to transfer the essentials from that house into your new boat, and suddenly you have to redefine ‘essential’.
Gadgets and gizmos
Which gadgets and gizmos will you really use in your tiny galley? Do you need a microwave, blender, breadmaker? Or will they take up valuable space for very little use? Are there other ways to achieve the same end? How much spare bedding, crockery, towels…
But life on a boat, just like life on the land, is more than just essentials. There are those things you’d ‘really like to take’. And that list keeps growing the more you think about it. Books, CDs, photo album, DVDs… Oh, and the DVD player, laptop, footspa… And the clothes! Are ‘boaty’ clothes enough, or do you want to be able to smarten up for the odd outing? How many clothes do you need to cope with all weathers? And what about that feature vase your mother-in-law gave you just last week? If there are two of you making the move together, the discussions here are going to be… interesting!
And don’t forget the stuff of ‘ordinary’ life. When the day’s faring’s over, or when you’re moored for a couple of days in some remote spot in torrential rain, what do you do? Sadly, I’ve met some very bored boaters, whose only enjoyment is in the travelling.
A real home
In a house, you’d have hobbies, games and other pastimes, and these bits and bobs are needed on the boat, too. The guitar, the easel and paints, the sewing machine, Scrabble, playing cards. Shame about the piano, though!
The bottom line is that this boat of ours isn’t simply a lovely, relaxing way to travel, to see the canals, to have fun. Unlike the holiday boats, this one is home. And making a home means having not only a sufficiency of the tools and utensils to deal with the practicalities of everyday life, but also those things that help us to be complete human beings, and not just boaters. And achieving that’s a balancing act.
But it’s very well worth it!