Recently, I was asked to write a guest post for online narrowboat magazine The Gongoozler. My post was all about the unexpected aspects of boat-living we’ve come across since we moved aboard. (If you haven’t read it, you can do so here.) Now I thought I’d complement that with a New Boaters’ Survival Kit featuring five things we never knew our lives would suddenly and bizarrely depend upon.
If you’ve recently begun boating, are considering taking up boating or would like to pretend you are boating from the safety of your own living room, here are some of the things you will need:
If you don’t already own slippers then for the love of God buy some, buy them now. Although we’re lucky enough to have nice wooden floors in our boat, it can still feel a lot like walking on an iceberg. To avoid fourth-degree frostbite, slippers are number one on my list of essentials.
I would also recommend having two pairs of slippers on rotation since I forgot to mention that, if the floor is like walking on an iceberg, then it is an iceberg that also happens to be made of coal. My Number 2 Replacement Slippers have now been conscripted since the bottom of my other slippers currently look like this:
2) A mallet – (named Timmy (optional))
As detailed in this previous post, we were once unlucky enough to come loose from our mooring in the middle of the night. It was not fun. In fact, I think it was the least fun thing I’ve ever experienced including the time I thought it would be a good idea to fly all the way to New Zealand on my own.
Although this boatcident was mostly due to the full-on hurricane a-blowin’ that night, it was also a little bit due to the fact that we hadn’t really hammered our mooring pins far enough into the ground to make them secure. And this was due to the fact that we were hammering them into the ground using an old brick instead of a trusty mallet.
Lesson: If you’re going to canal it, buy a mallet.
3) Elsan Blue or alternative
For those of you who have never pooed in a box, Elsan Blue is a bacteria-killing, waste-smushing, odour-suppressing wonder fluid that you put in your cassette to make emptying it less like the worst Bushtucker Trial ever.
To put it finely, Elsan fluid turns your poo blue. Which makes all the difference when emptying a cassette as, with it, you’re just pouring an innocuous blue soup into a hole but, without it, you’re getting a third look at last Tuesday’s dinner.
Of course I must add that I only mention Elsan Blue as it’s the most well-known brand. It’s actually a lot better to use organic toilet fluids as these have a much less harmful effect on the environment.
4) A magic wand
I never suspected that, such a short time into my boatlife, I would have grown to hate matches quite so much. But I do. I hate them. Matches are useless, lazy layabouts who break down under the least bit of pressure and only dabble in firelighting when they feel like it. I also hate lighters. If you’ve ever tried to use a lighter to light a gas hob then you and your thumbs will hate lighters too.
Luckily for me I have a magic wand.
It might just look like a weird silver stick at first, but look what happens when I press the button!
My fire stick is just the best. It means we can light the fire without getting burned. We can light the hob without getting burned. We can light the grill without getting burned. We can do all sorts of fire-related activities without getting burned!
Definitely a boat must-have. Or just a must-have for people who don’t like getting burned in general.
5) UHT Milk
One of the things that surprises people most about our new life is that we don’t have a fridge. ‘How awful!’ everyone cries. ‘But how do you keep your food cold??’
For the sake of factuality, we do actually have a fridge. It just takes up so much of the electricity that we prefer not to use it.
When we first moved onto the boat, this was not a problem. Since we couldn’t work out how to light the fire properly, the boat was so cold that it acted like its own giant fridge anyway! Yay!
Sadly, we have since learnt the most basic caveman skill of keeping ourselves warm so the boat no longer cools our food for us.
Most things stay pretty fresh in the cupboards but, instead of just getting on with it like the other foods, milk has turned out to be a whiny good-for-nothing reprobate who curdles at the slightest rise in temperature.
Thankfully we have recently discovered UHT milk, or SuperMilk as I like to call it. UHT milk never ever ever ever ever goes off (for a few months). The carton currently in my fridge won’t go off until SEPTEMBER. That is both delightful and gross at the same time!
I don’t understand how UHT milk works. No one understands how UHT milk works. We the fridge-less are just thankful for this weird long-lasting milk potion.
That’s all I can think of for now but I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list as more bizarre yet useful items work their way into our inventory. If you’re a boater yourself, feel free to share your most useful gadgets and must-haves in the comments too!