Bex and Paul's cozy boat moored in the countryside

May 23 |

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The offbeat occupant: Bex, dog walker and cook

Other occupants: My boyfriend Paul and our rescue dog Ronnie Red

Blacking the bottom of the boat. This needs to be done every few years.

Lives in: Currently moored on a canal in Gloucestershire UK

When did you move into this home? Four years ago

Snow!

What makes your home offbeat? We are living in a narrowboat on the UK canal system. It's a metal boat about 42ft by 7ft with an engine at the back, the bed after the engine room, then a small bathroom with toilet, sink and shower. The corridor then leads to the kitchen and living room with a small sofa.

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We have a small deck out front where we keep logs and coal. It's a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by. The interior living space is about 30ft by 7ft. It's basically like living in a corridor.

The engine room
The engine room -- also used to store coats and shoes.

What's it like where you live? Our neighbourhood is ever-changing. Currently there's about six other narrowboats that I can see but a few weeks ago when the weather was worse we were pretty much on our own. Some people stay in marinas over winter and then they come out when the weather improves. We gave up marina life in January but it's been an uneventful winter so it was a good move. We only got iced in once where we weren't able to go get water for a few weeks.

The first ice breaker.
The first icebreaker of the year clears the canal.

From the top of my boat I can see two countries (England and Wales) on most days, and four counties depending on cloud cover. We're surrounded by flat open fields with the river Severn in the distance so we're pretty exposed to the elements. It's nice being rocked to sleep by the winds that blow around here.

Ronnies favorite place. She gets so excited when we start the boat. :)

I've decorated the inside to try to make it lighter. The whole of the interior was varnished wood and after about 6 months I'd had enough of it.

Bedroom

I've painted most of the walls light green with one hot pink wall in the bedroom. I also use bright bed covers and throws to brighten the boat up. I've picked up a few prints from sources within the tattoo world and a selection of other knickknacks (all unbreakable as things fall over when the boat rocks).

Tea tower

What's the most challenging about this space? How do you deal with the challenge? The most challenging thing is the lack of space. things get knocked off the sides, and it's annoying not being able to pass

Kitchen AND lounge
The kitchen.
by each other in the corridor. Plus, there is never anywhere to put anything. I don't have a wardrobe or even a chest of drawers. Everything seems to take longer than it does in a house. Even just doing the washing up takes planning!

Having to empty the toilet is probably the worst job on the boat.

What's your favorite feature of your home? The log burner is probably my favorite thing. It's the heart of the home and really gives the boat a whole new feel when it's lit. I can cook on it and make hot water for washing up and washing me.

lovely stove

I also love the wildlife. I can watch all manner of birds from my window, like cormorants, egrets, and birds of prey. The swallows are just back for the summer. I could spend all day watching them flitting across the water catching bugs.

Attic 24 pattern blanket and small blanket

My bed is super comfy and cozy with many covers depending on how cold it is. We also have about three hot water bottles and the dog for when it's really cold. The bed is quite high off the ground which helps keep it warm and I love climbing into bed at night. It reminds me of being little and climbing into my parents' bed.

What's the most important lesson you've learned from this home?

  • I'm not organised enough to live in a house the size of a shoe box. I love the wildlife and the lifestyle but this place is just far to small for me.
  • The most common question I'm ever asked is if it's cold living on a boat. If it's cold outside, it's cold inside, too. But once we have the log burner going it warms up in no time. I prefer the winter to the summer — it's a lot easier to warm a boat up than it is to cool a warm boat down. At the height of summer it's too hot to stay in the boat past about 10am.

one of the two portholes

Now we've decided to leave the boat. The boat is too small for both of us to live on and we wouldn't have space to start a family on here. We toyed with the idea of getting a bigger boat, but since we managed to save for a good deposit on a house we're going back to dry land.

We have had an offer accepted on a c. 1811 mill cottage that needs work, so we're not going for the easy life land living.

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One of our views traveling the canals.

What advice do you have for other offbeat homies? If you think you might like a change in your life even if it's quite far removed from the norm, go for it. Even if it doesn't work out you'll never regret trying.
I'd never stayed over night on a boat before I bought one to live on. I'd lived in a caravan and a garage for a bit so I thought that was enough — and I was right. Although I've found boat life isn't for me now, I think it might be some thing I might come back to when I retire.

I'm sure I've missed things — if anyone has any specific questions about boating life please do ask.

Sorry the inside photos are so bad, neither of my cameras work well in dark conditions and the boat is always a bit dark.

Show me the decor porn!

  1. This is so intriguing! I love the idea of living on a boat. I don't think I'm cut out for it though, with the space concerns and lack of wardrobe. Maybe a vacation. When you move into the cottage, will you do another home tour? Also, your dog is very cute, and I love that round window.

    • Yeah lack of wardrobe space is one of the worst things. I live out of bags and I hate it all my clothes get trashed and I end up wearing the same 6 things because I can't find anything. For a holiday though it would be great. My Dad will be taking on the boat so we can still use it and I can't wait to holiday with just a bag of clothes.
      I will do another home tour for sure!

  2. I like that you tried, you had things you liked, but you were also okay deciding "it's not for me now". Thanks for sharing! I hope we get to hear more about your mill cottage.

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  3. Did you ever have trouble with giving people your address?

    I happened to be in the Job Center once when a guy who lived in a canal boat was trying to get signed on, they kept asking for the street name and just couldn't wrap there head around the idea that there wasn't a street because it's a boat and was in the canal.

    • I'm currently unemployed and decided not to sign on and just cope. I use my parents address for mobile phone and bank but living on a boat you don't need to give your address for as much stuff so I get very little junk mail which is nice. My parents live to far away for me to sign on at their address so i'd have had to sign on as homeless.

      Its great if you get stopped in the street by chuggers and utility companys pestering you. "I live on a boat" gets you out of everything. ;) I'll be taking that with me. :)

      • Until you meet the woman who told me loft insulation is "still worth considering" even if you live in a ground floor flat!

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  4. My parents and two friends had a wonderful week-long holiday on a narrowboat near Bristol. It's interesting to hear what it's like to live there on a more permanent basis. Best of luck with your new abode!

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  5. Thanks for this! I really want to live on a boat also – but being in Australia it would be a very different kind.

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  6. That is incredibly awesome! I'd love to try that for a little while. It'd probably be the Great Lakes on a sailboat for me, though, as I live in Michigan. :)

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  7. I have to ask, is the first photo from the Leeds-Liverpool canal?

    • Nope we haven't got that far yet. This is just above the Tardebigge flight of locks on the Worcester Birmingham canal when we went holiday to Birmingham.

  8. My uncle lived on a boat but my gran said enough was enough when their oldest child began crawling! I do not fare well on the water so unfortunately boat life is not for me.

  9. my grandparents had a 34' cabin cruiser that they'd move to in the summer (after dry-docking for the winter in New England). If you're ever looking for a bigger boat and mobility, it's the best! I loved it and wish they hadn't had to sell the boat when they got older (my grampa couldn't climb that ladder to the fly bridge anymore and steering from the galley was too fiddly and not all that safe). I miss boat life, at lest as a relatively spoiled kid in the summers.

  10. I own a 34' long Airstream trailer that's easy to live in, for me and my wife.

    There's a comfortable bedroom with a queen bed, there's ample wardrobe space, a full fridge, a freezer and soon we'll install a small dishwasher. The toilet is a composting model that would work well on a boat. We've got a sofa large enough to lounge on with two people and even a dinette for meals.

    A lot of narrowboats look badly planned out to me, with much wasted space. Perhaps looking at trailer design would be a good idea, where space saving solutions are the norm.

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