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mind travel to London

five year anniversary

Five years ago this month, we moved from London to Valencia and this anniversary is bringing up lots of thoughts about then and now and the time in between.

Here in Valencia for the past three weeks we have not been allowed beyond the city limits, and we have a curfew from 10pm to 6am as the authorities continue to search for ways to contain the pandemic.

So seems like the perfect opportunity to “mind travel” to London and commemorate and celebrate the move. Given the restrictions, it is also the only way.

all aboard!

For the last six months we were in England, we lived aboard a canal boat on the Lea River in East London. It was one of those life experiences that was difficult, and while there was some fun, mostly it was a hard six months in my discomfort zone. That said, I have no regrets and today I can laugh about the teary, stressy or miserable moments. Plus, being who I am, to a certain point I enjoy being in my discomfort (or learning) zone. It also helped that it was a temporary situation and at the end of it all I was moving to beautiful, sunny Valencia.

What was the problem? I simply felt totally impotent in so many aspects of boat life.

I tried, perhaps not enough, but I never learned to pilot our 22-meter (72-foot) long boat. I also wasn’t and didn’t become handy with electrics, plumbing or carpentry, which are essential skills for boat living. Something is always broken or needs tightening up. I am grateful that my partner, Ian, easily handles that stuff. Without him, that adventure would have been impossible. But without him, I would remind him in moments of spiky discussions, I wouldn’t have solved my housing crisis with a boat!

I even had a hard time cooking, as the gas range was fiddly to light and I couldn’t consistently spark up a burner. Sometimes I could, but more often than not, I simply could not get the stove to light.

I am pretty good at lighting a fire in a wood stove though, so at least when the weather turned to cool I always had the wood-burning stove to boil water for tea and cook. In the kitchen there was an AGA cooker oven which served as its name suggests, as well as being connected to a radiator system to heat the boat. When it was just a bit chilly there was a small pot-belly stove in the living room area of the boat.

comfortable surroundings

News about our move, both onto the boat and later, at the beginning of 2016, to Valencia, brought rafts (haha) of our friends to see our boat and us, for perhaps the last time … until the next time, whenever that might be.

My favorite (or easiest) time on the boat was in the summer before we moved in. We had both our little house and the boat for six weeks, which allowed us to move on board the stuff we needed every day and some decorations (both practical and pretty) to make the boat feel homey. Some other belongings we packed away for later shipping to Spain, and the rest we gave to second hand shops and friends. It was the sort of clean start that I have learned to make over the years. A backpack, suitcase and a few treasures that I hold on to no matter what.

anchors away!

We had to move the boat every two weeks to comply with its constant cruising license which coincided with about how often we had to move our boat to a water point to fill the water tank, if we were super careful with our water usage. For instance, we were lucky that our workplaces had shower facilities, which we (dirty) boaters took advantage of whenever were at work and we sometimes went to friends to have shower. But if we showered on the boat every day, in a few days we would have been out of water. Mooring spots in London were also in short supply, so when we tied up, we tried not to have to move again until our permitted two weeks were up.

Funny, it’s only now writing about moving the boat, that I am reminded that while living on the boat was not as comfy as living in bricks and mortar, it was moving the boat that actually stressed me out.

Fortunately, Ian picked up piloting the boat quite easily, forwards that is. Turning around or reversing was never as easy for him, and sometimes impossible in some areas of the river.

Our drill was: shut the dog inside the boat, I navigated from the bow and Ian piloted from the stern. We communicated as best we could by shouting across the 22 meters (72 feet) of the roof of the boat and over the roar of the engine.

The dog had to be locked away because he barked like a mad thing whenever the boat moved and more than once jumped into the river when we were under way.

The River Lea is also home to wild life, a marina and a water school and a few other floating businesses. We were often darting between leisure crafts with merry-makers, athletes in kayaks, canoes and crew teams, other canal boats and wildlife! There were several close calls, but we never badly crashed into any other watercraft or killed any wildlife that we know of. We hit the river bank, ran aground, crashed into low hanging tree branches and bump into other boats while getting services more than a few times. But nothing that ever required anyone to get medical attention or be billed for repairs.

Just lots of deep breaths and calming thoughts to avert freaking out.

Once during a terrible wind and rain storm we were trying to moor up to fill the water tank, and the long, narrow boat caught a wind that spun us around and around. There was some sort of equilibrium at play because the boat spun pretty much like a top in the same spot, which was good because other boats tied up near the water point. Inside there was no equilibrium. I was freaking out. It was probably the third scariest moment I lived on the boat. The first would be fearing for the dog’s life when he jumped off the boat and swam towards the boat while the motor was running. Second would be crashing into the trees, seriously, it was astonishing that there was no damage to the boat or injuries to persons.

happy to stay put

As I had anticipated, it was a bit of an adventure reaching the finish line, but in the end I survived, we all survived. That time is now a fond and old memory.

In contrast, I was thinking the other day about how happy and “certain” I feel about calling Valencia home and that my wanderlust is simply gone. At least today I can’t imagine any other place I’d like to be for the rest of my life than Valencia, which is a good thing because until the pandemia is over, I am not going anywhere anyway.

And neither are you. So thanks for reading and see you round here again soon.


Read more about our boaty adventures in London here.

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