The offbeat occupant: Bex, dog walker and cook
Other occupants: My boyfriend Paul and our rescue dog Ronnie Red
Lives in: Currently moored on a canal in Gloucestershire UK
When did you move into this home? Four years ago
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!