The news is getting around that I have moved to a houseboat. It was a boat once upon a time that has now been converted into a liveaboard. It’s static, meaning, no engine and therefore not going anywhere any time soon unless it’s tugged there.
When people hear about my living situation they come up with a lot of questions. First among them, unsurprisingly: Why?
Followed by: does it move around? Can you take it places? Do you have a toilet? A shower? Do you even have water? Is it cold?
And then again: Why?
Let me get to the basics before I get to the why.
As I said, it doesn’t have an engine anymore, so I couldn’t take it places. But my own houseboat will have an engine, so I can take it up or down river and across the channel. Probably never across the pond, though.
It only moves during high tide and then it mostly depends on the traffic on the Thames and what time of the day it is. It can move quite a bit if high tide coincides with the morning River Taxi rush. Not so much at night, though.
I have a shower and a toilet. It’s not quite the same as it is in a normal house, but close enough. Again, with my own houseboat it will be even more like in a normal house, especially the shower. The water is hot, but the power not so much.
It does the job and I don’t need to shower for hours anyway.
And yes, I am connected to power and water mains.
It could get cold, but I have a radiator. It will be a little chilly in winter, but I will manage. I’ll be warm in my bed and when I write in my little study, which is what matters mostly. It’s not as if I am at home 24/7.
I also have a washer and a dryer, so I can actually clean my clothes at home.
As I said before, I have absolutely everything I need and even a little more.
Now, why am I living on a houseboat? What could possibly possess me?
Practicalities aside, that is the question everyone is most interested in. Somehow I have so far managed to avoid answering it conclusively.
Not even on purpose, mind you.
There are a few reasons, I suppose. It might have started a good seven years ago when I ended up on a sailing boat in New Zealand on which I sailed to Fiji. I instantly liked it aboard and while we were still moored at the Marina in Whangarei, I became acquainted with what it meant to live on a boat.
I fell briefly out of love when we left New Zealand and I became unpleasantly seasick, never losing any food, but nevertheless not eating very much, forgetting to drink to a point where I became quite dehydrated, feeling overwhelmingly nauseated by the smell of frying meat and questioning my idea to ever set foot aboard to begin with.
Once I got over that I fell back in love with sailing and stayed for another two months.
Living on a static houseboat on the Thames in London doesn’t quite compare to sailing around the tropical Fijian islands, but living aboard here still reminds me of my time there somehow even though it couldn’t be more different.
About a year ago I found out that it’s entirely possible to live on houseboats in London and that there are shared living arrangements just the same as for flats and houses. Rooms on houseboats can be found on all London waterways and I’ve actually seen a number.
I had had the idea of eventually building my own house, designing it top to bottom and make it all mine. I knew of houseboats before, of course, but for some reason had forgotten. Once I was reminded I pretty much fell in love with the idea on the spot and knew that it was the right thing for me.
I won’t build a house. I will build a houseboat.
Until such time that I would have my own boat, I decided that I would rent a room on one. And though it took me a while, here I am.
This explains how it happened and how I conceived the idea, but you still don’t know why I love it so much.
Well, houseboat living isn’t exactly spacious. Even the largest boats won’t have the same roominess to them as normal flat or houses. But I’ve always preferred the smaller rooms in the apartments or houses that I lived in.
I never wanted or needed a big room to myself. I don’t need high ceilings or huge windows. Open plan living isn’t for me, even though I plan on having an open plan galley and living area on my boat. But on a boat it won’t be a huge room and it will have a completely different feel to it than a similar room would in a house.
I like it compact; I love the idea of inbuilt storage everywhere. No clutter, not much furniture aside from comfy seating arrangements and a table and desk here or there.
Everything has its place, there are hidden storage places, it’ll be super organized, but subtly so and it’ll be just incredibly comfy.
There will be light, because there will be skylights.
That’s the kind of space I want to live in and the boat I’m living on right now has a few of these things
I don’t need or want a lot of room. And the space that I crave is right outside, up on deck.
I love the water. I love to swim and be near water and living near water has been my plan for a while. Living on water turns out to be just what I have been looking for without realizing it.
I’ve described the serenity I feel when sitting on deck and looking over the water before. Even in my room it’s nice and quiet and it’s exactly the atmosphere I need to write.
Then there’s the fact that even in the heart of London I somehow feel closer to nature, simply because there are ducks and swans and geese coming around to say hi. The air is different, too.
It is also true that one is more conscious about how much water one uses and how much electricity. I have to carry my rubbish and my recycling a little bit further down the road to where the bins are, which makes me more aware of how much I’m actually throwing away.
And with storage space limited on board, I am also acutely aware of all my possession, of which there are few enough to begin with.
Whilst I am certainly not eccentric, I’ve probably made some unusual choices in my life, or so some would say. It fits quite well with my personality type and character to chose to live on a boat as well.
There’s a sense of adventure.
Lastly there is this: I need a home, but I don’t feel like putting down roots. I’m not the type to settle easily or permanently. I don’t drive, so a motor home wouldn’t be right for me either.
What place could be more perfect than a houseboat? Especially when I have my own that will be truly mine and which I will be able to take with me. Maybe not everywhere, but far enough.
I don’t expect anyone to understand. But there are a few people, who like the lifestyle just as much as I do and they have their reasons, too. Houseboat or Marina communities are usually quite friendly, quirky and often artistic. They are small communities and exactly the kind of neighbourhood I prefer to live in.
It would appear I had to say a lot on the subject. Well, now you know.
Try it sometime and see for yourself.