I’ve moved onto a narrow boat on the River Lea. She’s called Slow Gin and she’s 60ft long with a 6ft beam. I moved in on 31 December and saw the New Year in on the water. “You’re brave,” people say to me. “This is the hardest time of year to move on to a boat!” Thankfully the winter is fairly mild, and if I can cope now then imagine how great it will be come the summer. The thing that I struggle with the most is the short days — it’s almost impossible to do any work on the boat after dark, which means my moving in and decorating time is limited.
“Why did you decide to buy a boat?” people ask. There are loads of reasons: alternative lifestyle, love of the water, cheap way to live, having lived on a boat for three months when I sailed around Britain.
The money thing was important — I was desperate to move back to London, but couldn’t find an affordable room that I could rent. Working freelance means I don’t have a regular amount coming in each month, but I had £30k in savings, which is a good deposit for a flat, or enough to buy a boat outright. It was a bit of a sudden decision — I didn’t consult with anyone over it, I just decided one day that I would have a look to see what kind of boats were available on the market, and less than a month later I’d bought one and moved in.
The boat lifestyle really suits me. It’s very peaceful here on the water, and the community is very open and friendly, with everyone helping each other out. I love living off-grid – from generating my own electricity with a solar panel to my composting toilet, it’s a low-impact lifestyle. Having finite resources on board encourages me to be even more frugal than I might have been in the past. This can be the most challenging part as well, though – I can’t necessarily get home from a night out and flick a switch – if the batteries are flat which they often are at this time of year, I have to run the engine for the electrics to work. Running out of gas halfway through doing the cooking is always annoying too.
It is a big challenge — I’m now a home-owner with all the concerns and considerations that brings, and I have yet to sleep through the night without worrying that the thing is going to sink!