Saturday, 26 February 2011

Meet The Boaters

What makes someone decide to live aboard? Does having kids change that? Why do some families stay living aboard, and others decide that as their children grow older, it’s time to leave the waterways and live ashore? I’ve begun to interview some boaters and ex-boaters about life afloat.


Louise (39) is a nurse and lives aboard with her eight year old daughter. She has lived aboard for fourteen years and loves the pretty colours and the glistening of the sun on the water.

She bought her first boat because she needed somewhere to live and she felt that rent in London was “absurd!”

What is your current boat like?

“It’s a 42 foot narrowboat, with a wheelhouse, 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and living area and big hatch.”

What do you like about your boat?

“I love being able to steer from the inside, listening to the radio, watching the windscreen wiper when it's raining and I'm, warm and cosy inside and talking to my daughter the whole time and being able to keep an eye on her. I like pretty much everything!”

Is there anything you don’t like about boating?

“I dislike leaky windows but the tarpaulin does a mighty fine job keeping the blasted raindrops out.
The best things are a wonderful sense of community and belonging, looking after my neighbours and feeling looked after. Financial freedom, change of scene, great friends and canal family, lots of colourful characters and musical gatherings.”

And what are the worst things about the lifestyle?

“The worst things are running out of water, full toilet, when the engine will not start, and not having enough room on the back deck for my bike.”

Louise lived aboard for six years before having her daughter.

Did becoming a parent change your thoughts on living aboard?

“Yes, I enjoyed living on the boat even more when my daughter was born, because I spent a lot more time at home with her and enjoyed walking along the towpath whilst pushing her in her buggy. I knew a good few boat mums and felt quite connected. We travelled on the boat a lot as well before she started school, so it was a great adventure.”

What are the best and worst things for children living aboard?

“I'm not sure that it is that great for children to be honest, there’s limited space inside, no garden, and the water is so dangerous. We do so much off the boat, she is well loved on the canal. My daughter does like going up to Denham and being at the country park”.

Denham Country Park offers 69 acres of rambling walks and woodland footpaths. It is surrounded by the Grand Union Canal and the rivers Colne and Misbourne.

“Being on the boat, means that I get to spend more time with my daughter because I don't have to work like mad to pay rent or a mortgage and I like being there for her.
The worst things are that there are not many other children on the canal, parents are wary about their children visiting, there’s limited space, limited power, and she has to help or wait while I do the chores, like laundry etcetera.”

What do people usually ask you about living on a narrowboat?

“Is it cold in winter?”

What encourages you to stay living aboard a boat?

“What encourages me to stay? Being able to move into the catchment area for a great senior school when the time comes. Being able to live in bustling London or the green of Denham in the same week, canal family, fresh air, country walks around Denham at weekends, canal-side pubs and musical get togethers.

So would you ever leave the waterways and live on land?

“ If I did ever move ashore I think I would always keep my boat. It's quite refreshing to remember all the great things about boating.”
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