It’s the first time I’ve lived on a boat, and I began with concerns about this lifestyle, yet my partner and I are coping with the challenges, and the good things on balance are more than the hassles.
The one thing that I notice is getting better, but I still struggle with, is moving the boat. The boat has a continuous cruising license, which means every two weeks we have to move on to a new neighbourhood. British Waterways (BW) very helpfully (or not) are vague in their definition of ‘new neighbourhood’. But it’s not the uncertainty about the distance we should cover that makes me anxious, and it’s not piloting the 71-foot narrow boat that makes me nervous (I still haven’t learned to drive and I’m wholly confident in Ian’s skill), it’s the not knowing where we’re going. Where will I live for the next two weeks?
Moving also makes me nervous because there’s greater opportunity for things to go wrong compared to when we’re moored up.
We might run into another boat. Another boat might run into us. We might hit one of the many rowers who also use the river. We might run aground, or become entangled in a tree. The engine might break down and we’d be stuck in the river. We might need to turn around and not be able to. The dog might jump in and hurt himself. And my list of worries finishes where it began – we might not find a mooring place, and then what?
I don’t generally think of myself as fearful or nervous person, so this anxiety around moving the boat is interesting to me, especially since, although some of the above has happened in some way, none of my worst case scenarios have played out (yet). There’s certainly more for me to learn about myself if I can go deeper into this anxiety around moving the boat.
Some other concerns I had before moving on board are turning out to be tiny.
Water – So far we have run out of water in the household system once, and it was no big deal. As soon as we could (the next day) we cruised down to the water point and filled up and in the meanwhile we used our drinking water for household tasks like flushing the toilet and washing dishes. Our drinking water and household water come from the same supply, but having no idea how clean the inside of the water tank is, we prefer to keep water for drinking in containers in the kitchen. This also means we can easily keep an eye on how much we have, and re-fill before running out.
Laundry – Doing laundry is time-consuming, yet has to be done. Regularly. If you have a machine at home, you’ll know how easy it is to wrap doing laundry (putting
it on, setting it to dry, putting it away) around so many other household chores. And while having a machine at home is more convenient, we were offered a small portable washing machine designed for boats, we said no. We didn’t want to sacrifice the space or use the water. Plus the system I have going with friends right now is working out fine. Every two weeks or so, I take 2 to 3 loads of laundry to their house, hang out with them if they are home (we eat, go to the pub, catch up) or go in with my key when they are away and wash my clothes. In fact I’m going over there today for a late Sunday lunch and clothes washing. The last time I washed clothes we were having a streak of rainy days and I had put my put clothes on to wash and done some errands and when I came back one of the friends had even dried and folded my clothes. So considerate and helpful!
While I am sad to leave London, it’s a sad joy. I am filled with joy to have made such good friends while here, as I have elsewhere, and hope and belief that I will again find the same sort of kindred spirits in Valencia fills me with joy. It is an odd place to be. In limbo, and with contrasting feelings of sadness and joy. And that’s where I am now, and near the big tree just north of the bridge.