I’ve been blogging daily about lockdown living on a narrowboat for three weeks today. Maybe some of the posts have resonated with you – or there may have been some that touched a raw nerve? It’s such an interesting time, I realise that everyone is different and we all have our own challenges to face. Some days I want to shout out loud how wonderful it is to be so still, and for the peace and quiet surrounding us. Well apart from the ducks, the birds, the bees, the farmer ploughing his fields. Other days, I coach myself to keep things in perspective and not panic about the ‘what ifs …’ that rise mockingly to the surface.
Challenges & Opportunities
Living on a narrowboat during this time has its own challenges, as well as opportunities. They tend to be quite different to living on land, and include:
- Having to be very mindful about water usage. We’re fortunate to have two large stainless steel tanks, and a water filter. So we can drink the water out of the tap. Once they’re both full, we can generally last about ten days. Though we shower a little less often than usual!
- Our electric supply comes from our batteries. Our batteries are charged either by the two solar panels on the roof (yay for the sunshine we’ve been experiencing lately, and for Plum and his Solar Afloat business!), or by running the engine. Running the engine obviously uses diesel …
- Diesel – we need this to run the engine, and to work the Eberspacher heating. We appreciate the warmer weather greatly – my daughter Kim is finding the adjustment to UK temperatures from Nigeria ones distinctly difficult, so the heating has been on more than we’d need.
- Washing clothes and bedding – we have a washing machine, it was one of the conditions for me to live on a narrowboat! However, it’s a lot smaller than a ‘normal’ washing machine, and of course, it takes water. So we don’t wash our clothes or bedding as often as you land-lubbers do! I don’t think we smell offensive though, yet! I guess social distancing could be helping there …
- Cooking – we have an electric oven that requires the engine to be on full revs in order to work. This takes diesel. So we don’t use it so often – unless we need the engine on to charge the batteries. We’ve got a gas hob and grill, which is used frequently. Gas bottles last for ages! It always surprises me how long we can stretch out one bottle. We do however need to ensure that when one runs out, we get it filled up at the first opportunity. Otherwise, we’d forget. It’s a simple switch-over – well it is for Barry! I have no idea how to do it. That’s a blue job.
- Surrounded by nature – this is such a joy at the moment. we’re watching as spring springs into life. The hedgerow by the towpath was almost barren three weeks ago, today it’s covered in new shoots and leaves. The fresh green colours of this time of new beginnings are one of the spectacular sights living on a narrowboat in the UK.
- Food and general supplies – we don’t have a car. Having chosen to stay away from the town of Nantwich, it’s a three-mile walk to the nearest supermarket. Otherwise, we’d have to take the boat there, moor up, walk to the shops, take it back to the boat, turn the boat around, then head back to our mooring spot. It would take a day. Barry and Kim walked to Nantwich yesterday and did the shopping, while I carried on with my work. Luckily one of our ‘bubble’ boats, was heading back to the mooring so he took the heavy bags while they walked.
- The dreaded toilet! Not something you tend to spend much time thinking about living in a house. For us we have a ‘pump-out’ loo. Hoorah! Those that have a cassette will be having to be moored close to a place they can empty said cassette every few days. With all the touching of handles and things that involves. To be honest, I have no idea what it does involve, and absolutely no wish to! Our tank would last around three weeks with us both living on board. With an extra person probably two weeks maximum. We’re moored on the route that Fuel Boat Halsall take, and we also have Nantwich Canal Centre. There’s a self-service pump-out at Calveley in the other direction, but we don’t have a CRT pump-out card or any way of getting one. So that’s useless. We wish CRT would come up with a better system for boaters who can’t access mail!
- Rubbish. We don’t have refuse collectors popping along the towpaths each week. Ever. It’s often difficult to find places to dispose of our rubbish and rare as hen’s teeth to find any semblance of recycling. So we sadly don’t bother as there’s no space to store it. Another bonus to our current mooring is there’s a CRT rubbish station at the top of Hurleston Locks. Our daily exercise is a great excuse to take whatever we have to throw away. If it’s not burnable on the multi-fuel heating stove.
- Internet – we often get asked how we get internet on the boat. We each have phone data, mine is unlimited on the phone or for tethering. We also have a mobile WIFI device, with unlimited data. So long as we moor somewhere with good signal we’re happy.
If Not Now, When?
For many years lots of people have said to us “We’d love to be doing what you’re doing.” And we ask them a little about their lives. Generally, they have a big house. No mortgage. Kids have grown and left home. which basically means, they COULD do what we’re doing. But it takes an awful lot of letting go, making sure it really IS what you want to do, researching the pros and cons (there are some of cons too honestly!), then blowing caution to the wind and just doing it.
We’ve also met a few people who HAVE changed their lives, bought a narrowboat, and either lived on it permanently or kept a house as well. Most of these people who have got in touch love it. The occasional ones aren’t so happy! So I guess again, each to their own. It’s going to depend on where you are in life, and how you want to live. It’s definitely not for everyone – thank goodness or the canals and rivers would be swamped and akin to a motorway once we start cruising again!
Something that may help you reflect on your life and what’s important to you, is the film ‘The Economics of Happiness‘. Normally you have to pay to watch this – but during April it’s free. Don’t delay too long!
Continuing Symptom Free
Another day of reporting ‘no symptoms’ to the COVID-19 Symptom Tracker. This morning there were 2,195,442 people contributing. Almost halfway to the 5 million that would be the optimum for statistical accuracy, I believe. So please, if you’re reading this and haven’t signed up (and you’re in the UK), join. If you’ve joined, please share the link with friends and family.