I’m On A Boat!

Rowing boats in Windsor


Living on a boat on The River Thames

But it’s not going fast, and I don’t have a nautical themed pashmina afghan…but if that’s what you’re looking for you can find one here (who knew Lonely Island were setting fashion trends!)

For those of you who have seen the video ‘On a Boat’ by Lonely Island, living on board is exactly like nothing on that video.

The Boat

Swans and geese in the river thames
Feeding the swans from the boat

When I first met Adam he was living on a motor boat on the River Thames. I imagine that some girls would run a mile from this. When you delve into the dark world of internet dating, meeting slightly strange people is what you sign up for. Slightly strange can mean a few different things – they like different things to you and your friends, and will enhance your life and bring you new experiences. Or, they’re so completely different to you that you can’t hold a conversation with them, let alone imagine a life with them. Living on a boat could be either one of those two types of slightly strange. I decided to take the risk.

I thought it sounded like it could be pretty romantic, and I wasn’t far wrong. It wasn’t luxury for sure, but the boat was pretty nice.  It had a bathroom and a bedroom and a sofa.  We ate BBQs on the deck by candle light, watched films under blankets, fed ducklings and enjoyed countless beautiful sunsets.  It was hard to understand how you could not love boat life. 

BBQ on a boat
Boat life BBQ

But the boat wasn’t exactly a home either. Adam had been slowly ripping it apart, getting lost down rabbit holes of fixing rust and finding leaks. It had escalated somewhat, and the boat was without a kitchen when I met Adam.

When we started to make plans to escape the UK and travel the world we realised that we would need to sell the boat. And no one in their right mind would buy a boaty building site! Although eating outside had been great in the summer we very much doubted it would be quite so novel come the winter. We needed to roll our sleeves up and put in some serious work if we were ever going to sell the boat!

preparing food for a bbq on a boat
Cooking outside is easy when you live on a boat

Demolition Time

With so much damp and rust we wanted to strip the boat back to it’s steel shell, so that we could re-build.  To do this we needed to take out the bathroom, and in doing that we destroyed the bedroom.  So nights on the boat were now spent on a dirty floor and using the toilet became trips to the nearby station, praying they wouldn’t be closed. 

Boat DIY site
Demolishing the bathroom and the bedroom

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did.  Check out how we ended up weeing in a bucket here!  The solar panels weren’t providing us with the electricity we had hoped for, so we had to remember to take home batteries to charge the tools we needed.  When winter approached much faster than we’d anticipated we had to light countless candles to keep us warm. 

We ripped out rotting wood from the walls and ceilings, saving what we could.  We filled bin bag after bin bag with rubbish which we had to store on the deck and lug off the boat, up the river bank and all the way to the car so that we could get it to the dump. It was a great work but it wasn’t great fun.   Basically, we had succeeded in turning the boat into a building site, and the more we uncovered the further ‘finished’ seemed.

Boat DIY site
Freezing cold bare walls in the winter

Next we had to get the boat out of the water and see what the damage really was.  Adam spent his birthday driving the boat three hours to the marina, in the dark, with no lights.  He managed not to crash, just.  Then we left the boat, headed to work and came back that evening to this…

Boat out of the water in marina
Life on the hard standing

High and Dry

Now we had to use a ladder to get onto the boat, but at least we had power.  We managed to rig up a temporary kitchen, with a hob and microwave we borrowed from my parents.  Being able to make coffee in the morning was a real treat!  Climbing up and down a ladder to use the toilet was not. 

We built a bed and bought a mattress on my birthday, I think it may be the best present I’ve ever had!  To wash up we had to carry a bag full down the ladder to use the marina sink, showers were the same.  We collected plastic bottles so that we could take a few to fill up at a time, which made drinking easier.

The very worst was still to come. We needed to grind back all the anti-foul and layers of peeling primer to the bare hull beneath so that we could give it a whole new paint job. With full overalls, mask, goggles, gloves, ear defenders (you name it, we wore it) we spent three whole weeks just endlessly grinding away. I listened to audiobooks to keep me sane, and I think I worked my way through four of them. Hours and hours of grinding. It was hell.

A DIY kitchen in a building site
Our kitchen

On Reflection

I look back on that time out of the water with mixed emotions, a mixture of hate and extreme hate.  I was always dirty, exhausted and (sorry Adam!) pretty grumpy.  But there were amazing moments, a beautiful sunset, a positive survey, the feeling that I had grown in strength and capability.  We are still living on a building site but it feels so much easier now that we are back on the Thames.

This quote sums up my life over the past few months,

‘Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.’

W.H.Auden

I lived a long time without Adam, he very nearly didn’t live long on a dry boat.  So if anyone ever asks you to move onto a boat, make sure it’s where it should be, and that it’s staying there

If you’re still reading after 639 words from the inner workings of my mind, feel free to leave a comment (because I worked out how to install a plugin and no one’s used it yet!)