It’s hard to believe that we have been on the boat for a year.
That’s 52 weeks, 364 days to the day (Tuesday) or 365 to the date tomorrow (29th July).
I still remember that first day, waiting for Hubby to come round the marina entrance as I stood at the end with the camera and the dog. None of my pictures came out.
He’d had one to one tuition on the journey and it was money well spent.
Hubby then drove his instructor back which was only twenty minutes by road, but three and a half hours by river.
To be honest, I was seriously asking myself what we’d done, or should I say
‘Oh Shit. What the hell had we done????’
Dreams of a new house were in tatters, and we had just spent the majority of our money on a floating tin can. Most of our remaining possessions were in storage but we had the camping gear so weren’t exactly unequipped.
As with all new homes, the first thing we did was put the kettle on and made a cuppa.
Then I made up the bed, put our few clothes away and we went shopping for the basics.
Our water tank holds about 100 gallons, and when we filled it up for the first time on that first day, I was watching the level intently through the hole so as not to overfill it and flood the deck .
It wasn’t until the second or third top up that I discovered there was this little gizmo in the bow with the word ‘water’ on it and nice little divisions showing empty, ¼, ½, ¾ and full.
Just went to show how naive and uneducated I was.
Those first few weeks were trying.
There was so little storage space: even though we had few things to put in it, it was soon brimming.
We were forever bumping into each other or banging our heads on the cupboard above the bed, had to walk single file or sideways down the corridor, there could only be one of us in the kitchen at a time, and we had to adjust to a life where nothing was automatic. If we wanted hot water, we had to put the immersion on and also remember to turn it off!
We were responsible for our own toilet waste, had to use communal showers (we were using the one on board as a cupboard), had to pay for doing our laundry, and needed to totally reassess the way we shopped which was expensive at first.
We soon settled into a routine though, Hubby would get up first in the morning and take the dog out, I’d get up and sweep through with the little long-handled dustpan and brush we’d bought for a pound, then have breakfast ready by the time he got back.
The first time we took the boat out on our own, we were nervously excited (or perhaps excitedly nervous?). Getting out seemed easy enough, but getting back into our berth might not be. Still, we took our time and it was clear that Hubby was pleased to be learning something new, and not just a way of life.
For me, I still had doubts but we were committed as this was now Home.
When we returned to Lincolnshire to get our storage sorted out, 95% had to go.
We had some casualties where personal things got sent to charity shops by mistake, but we came away in 2 cars with what was left. This included the promised cooker and mattress for MOH.
I almost cried when we discovered we hadn’t reduced our possessions enough and of what we’d kept, another 90% ended up going to charity.
However, I have to admit we have not missed the incredible bulk of modern living, and have saved ourselves a fortune by amending our three questions when shopping from
Do I want it? Do I need it? Will my life end if I don’t have it? to
Can I wear it? Can I eat it? Where will I put it?
As for clothes, things that have worn out haven’t needed to be replaced as we had ‘spares’. In all honesty, we’ve discovered just how much we need and even more importantly how much more we don’t!
Our initial plan of going out for short periods, the occasional night away and going through the odd lock or two went for a bucket of chalk and we ended up doing the lot on our trip to Stratford Upon Avon at the beginning of July.
It was a terrific experience, we learned a lot about us, the boat, how other people worked aboard their own vessels, how locks worked (or didn’t) and we intend to go out again for a few days away once in a while.
As per usual, I have been keeping a spreadsheet of our expenditure and now have a full year for comparison. Those swings and roundabouts are going strong rather than getting rusty.
We still have to pay council (local) tax, though this is the lowest tariff band, but still equates to almost a thousand pounds a year compared to eleven hundred in the cottage.
Our electricity has increased by £50 over the year, but this does include our winter heating using the oil filled radiators and also running the dehumidifier to keep the condensation issue under control.
Fuel for the boat (we’ve discovered the tank holds around 80 litres) has equated to £170, which has covered our winter central heating and our travels out on the river, plus we have used just one 13kg bottle of gas (£28) for cooking. In the house, our annual fuel bill (oil and coal for our stove in the lounge as we cooked on electric) was over £800.
Water rates and a phone bill don’t apply here as the water (plus sewage disposal for our cassette loo) is included in our mooring fees, and the marina provides a free WIFI service (temperamental, but free nonetheless). Our phones are old and simple PAYG mobiles.
Compulsory insurance is almost half that of buildings and contents for the house, we are saving a little on our food bill now and only having the one car has obviously made a difference too.
That’s the good news.
What has knocked up the cost of boat living compared to living in a house are mooring fees (charged by the foot/metre) and the necessary licences required for being on the river and living aboard. An additional licence is required for other rivers and the canals, but we haven’t opted for that yet as it’s another thousand pounds for the year, though you can purchase a temporary licence for 28 days (that’s in total, not in any one set period).
Mooring fees vary, but if you are prepared to be a water gypsy by permanently cruising, these don’t apply and you may only pay a nominal sum of £5 a night in some places.
A permanent mooring does not necessarily give you an address.
Trying to get car insurance, bank statements or any other ‘official’ documentation is almost impossible without an address. With our bank for instance, a c/o or PO Box number is not acceptable, neither is a forwarding address (a bank letter (which I hadn’t asked for by the way) addressed to the cottage was returned rather than redirected by the Post Office when we moved and the bank froze all our accounts).
However, if like us, you have a permanent residential mooring, this comes at a premium.
Here, we have the advantage of free showers and toilets, and the use of a laundry at £5 per load. The pontoons are modern insomuch as they rise with the water level, though flooding can occur and I have the pictures to prove it!
This is to the left and right of our berth in January.
Last winter was extremely mild for our first, so we have been broken in gently. It was cold and wet, but we weren’t frozen in, neither were we marooned due to high waters.
We are also extremely well placed being within walking distance of the High Street and only a short car journey to several major towns. If we didn’t have our car, there is a reliable bus service.
Some marinas are literally in the middle of nowhere so therefore considerably cheaper (by as much as a thousand pounds a year) but your transport costs will increase as you have to drive anywhere to shop. In bad weather, you could also be stranded, and trying to find somewhere to walk the dog could be impossible because you simply can’t walk anywhere!
As for the actual way of life, we love it. We feel part of a community and are accepted for who we are, Boat Owners. Nothing more, nothing less.
What hasn’t been included in my comparison is house maintenance, such as fencing, decorating, garden upkeep etc.
Here on the boat we have no need of a lawn mower to cut the surrounding grass or the worry of roof repairs, replacing fence panels destroyed in high winds or flooding because the drains don’t work.
As for boat maintenance, being made of aluminium, we don’t have to have it blacked or anti-fouled every couple of years or so. Engine servicing, oil checks etc (most of which Hubby can do himself) are quite straightforward and no more than the cost of self-servicing a car. We were lucky insomuch as the boat was less than a year old when we bought it and have kept a log book so have the full service history.