5 Weird Things I Used to Do Before I Lived on a Boat

We haven’t been on boats very long, just 18 months in fact, yet the time when I lived in a home that didn’t float seems like a distant and hazy memory. However there are some things I very definitely remember that I used to do and am now no longer able to do due to living in a capsizable house.

1) Shower. Just, like, whenever

When I lived in my South-West London flat, hot water came out of the tap all the time. Seriously it was just like, whenever you want hot water, BOOM, there hot water is. It was a magical mystery.

Scientists believe this strange 'hot' water comes from a magma layer located deep beneath Clapham that will - fingers crossed - one day erupt and take all those estate agents with it.

In actual fact, scientists believe this strange ‘hot’ water comes from a magma layer located deep beneath Clapham that will – fingers crossed – one day erupt and take all those estate agents with it.

Sadly everything about canal living is cold and wet, including the water. Joyous impromptu showers have become a thing of the past. Now if I want hot water, I must first either a) light a fire to get hot water from the back boiler or b) run the engine to heat the water in the calorifier.

This is why you must now give me at least two hours' notice if you need me to be clean for any reason.

This is why you must now give me at least two hours’ notice if you need me to be clean for any reason.

2) Have dry hair

Let’s make that four hours notice if you need me to be clean and presentable as I also no longer own a hairdryer.

This is *exactly* what I look like all the time.

I googled ‘wet hair’ and, sure enough, this is *exactly* what I look like all the time.

Although I am pretty bad at styling my own hair anyway, I could at the very least make sure it was dry back when I lived in a flat. On the boat however, a hair dryer is just too much for our mini inverter and I have to resort to drying my hair in the wind like some sort of woodland nymph.

How I imagine this looks.

How I imagine this looks.

How I actually look.

How this actually looks.

3) Not have a dog

The good thing about being a grown up is that you get to make all of your own decisions (well, most of your own decisions. The government make a lot of them for you like “Don’t kill people” and “Don’t slide down the middle of escalators”).

The bad thing about being a grown up is that you get to make all of your own decisions.

Is it just me that has grown up to find that adult life is essentially the unending decision on what to make for dinner?

Is it only me that has grown up to find out adult life is just unending indecision about what to make for dinner?

Although we were technically grown ups before we moved on to a boat, we had been renting for most of our adult lives and so had a certain level of autonomy taken away from us when it came to making really stupid decisions like getting a dog.

Unleashed on our very own boat however, we stuck it right to the man by going out and getting a massive, mental dog pretty much straightaway.

Look at it! Massive.

Look at it! Massive.

Nearly £400 in vet bills and countless destroyed slippers later, we’re wondering if landlords were doing us a favour in preventing us from getting a dog as big as a haystack.

That being said, when I get into bed at night and Skipper comes in and spoons me, I am both partially creeped out and 100% sure I wouldn’t be without her.

Okay, 80% sure. I really liked that shirt.

Okay, 80% sure. I really liked that shirt.

4) Attend social gatherings

If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that it’s taking us a super long time to get to, or even near, London. Since London is where most of our socialising takes place, we’ve spent most of 2015 in a state of reclusive dog/boat-obsession. Even when we’re in London or near a handy train station, lots of boat-related incidents can and will prevent me from attending your social event.

rsvp

5) Have an Instagram account that was 0% pictures of canals

Before I moved onto a boat, my Instagram photos fell largely into two camps: Stuff That I Thought Was Funny and Stuff That I Thought Was Arty (But Wasn’t).

Stuff That I Thought Was Funny:

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Look at this hilarious yet for some reason extremely moodily-lit carrot!

Stuff That I Though Was Arty (But Wasn’t):

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The Keys to Life. Also a beach hut. Something about the sea?

Now my Instagram photos fall into one camp: Pictures of Canals (with a 5% deviation for Pictures of my Dog or Pictures of my Dog Near Canals).

I didn't say they weren't *amazing* pictures of canals.

I didn’t say they weren’t *amazing* pictures of canals.

So I guess you could actually call this an improvement, depending on how much you really really like pictures of canals.

(If you do happen to really really like pictures of canals, you can always follow me over on Instagram. If you really hate pictures of canals but really love, say, pictures of hilarious boat dogs, you should probably just follow someone else.)

If you want to know more weird stuff about boatlife or even just normal stuff about boatlife, you can also find me on Twitter where I’m happy to answer questions using all my years of boating experience (which are few) and all my knowledge of boating (which is little). See you there!

 

 

A Fortnight To London

 

As those of you who know us might have realised, we’ve been ‘heading back to London in about a week or so’ for five months now. There are many reasons for this. The reasons are four-fold.

Reason Number One – Thamesphobia and The Stoppage That Never Was

When we first bought Albion it was still winter and so there were a fair few stoppages taking place on the canal (non-boaters: a stoppage is when a bit of the canal gets closed off for maintenance). One of these was on the Grand Union at Milton Keynes. Since we needed to pass through here to get to London from our starting point of Stowe Hill, we were in a bit of a pickle.

We decided that, since we’re both working from home now and not tied to the city anyway, we would avoid the Milton Keynes stoppage by going down the Oxford Canal and heading back into London on the Thames. We planned to do this over one two-week trip.

That took up the first three months.

One small hour-long drive for a car, ONE GIANT QUARTER OF A YEAR TRIP FOR BOATKIND!

One small hour-long drive for a car, ONE GIANT QUARTER-OF-A-YEAR TRIP FOR BOATKIND!

By the time we reached Oxford and looked into the logistics of travelling into London along the Thames, we realised that it would actually cost less in diesel to just go all the way back up to Northampton and down the Grand Union to London than it would be to buy the gold license you need to take your boat on the river (and to pay to moor up each night, which it looked like you had to do on the Thames).

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People who have boats on the Thames, apparently.

I have to admit, making this decision was easy for me because I was terrified of taking our little boat on the river anyway.

NOPE.

NOPE.

Funny story: Halfway to Oxford we also realised that – since it took so long to complete all the work we needed to do on the boat in the end – by the time we’d set off, the stoppage would have been over anyway. Lol!

Lol.

Lol.

Reason Number Two – We Accidentally Got a Dog

One of the things that made our trip down to Oxford so much longer was the dog that accidentally joined us halfway through.

"OH HI I LIVE HERE NOW!"

“OH HI I LIVE HERE NOW!”

When I say accidentally, I half mean it. We had always planned to get a dog ever since we decided to buy our own boat (we had always wanted pets but had never owned our own property before). At first we wanted a cat but, after seeing the amount of ‘drowned cat’ posts on the London Boaters Facebook group, we decided a dog would be a better choice.

Being the sensible creatures that we are though, we decided to wait until we’d been on Albion for a while to ensure that were settled and used to all the boat’s quirks before we took on a new challenge.

Except then one day I looked at the Dogs Trust Rehoming site.

How could we resist? Except by being normal mature adults?

How could we resist?? Except by being normal mature adults??

There’d be no harm in just going to have a look, we said. They probably won’t even let us rehome a dog on a boat, we said.

Two weeks later we were en route to pick up our new crew member, Skipper.

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11036257_10101616134630655_4614051092777787521_n And we haven’t regretted it once. Apart from on the first night when she peed on our bed, or the initial two-month period where she point blank refused to get on the boat without being carried, or the time she chewed the handles off our chest of drawers, or the time she ate an entire loaf of fresh giraffe bread after I HAD JUST BOUGHT IT.

This added ages onto our journey since we had to spend loads of time settling her in. Still, three months on and she’s a boat dog through and through. She sits on the roof of the boat when we move and, since she’s a lurcher (half greyhound/half collie), she sleeps for 80% of the day. Just like I do.

A nap is no good without a nap buddy.

It’s not a nap if you don’t have a nap buddy.

Reason Number Three – The Oil Watergate Scandal

Living on Albion has by no means been plain sailing (no, it’s not a pun. We don’t sail, we navigate). Getting used to a significantly-reduced living space has been hard, our fridge wouldn’t work for ages and our hot water system has been temperamental at best.

Still, these were all things we could get used to or fix. Water getting into the engine however, required Professionals.

Mechanic

We only have amateur-level overalls.

Turns out it was a good job we didn’t go on the Thames as, one day journeying back up the Oxford Canal, the engine suddenly starting cutting out at low revs, sending us drifting – unpowered – down the canal (if anyone saw me drive straight into the wall of that lock, THIS IS WHY). Then the oil pressure gauge dropped dramatically.

I won’t go into the technical details (largely because I don’t know what they are) but the long and short of it was that water was getting into the oil in the engine. Since this can destroy the internal workings of your engine, we could no longer continue. We were stranded.

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Luckily, with the combined help of the positively angelic James Hoare and Keith Duffy on Facebook and Tom from River Canal Rescue, the engine was fixed up just enough to get us back to our Alma Pater, Robbie at Stowe Hill Wharf.

Positive things: Being back at Stowe Hill meant we were able to get the engine fixed, the boat blacked and amazing new solar panels fitted by the wonderful Matt from Old Friends Canal Services.

Negative things: Not only did we have to borrow a lot of money to do all of this, we were also now four months into our trip yet had only managed to make it as far as right where we started.

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 Reason Number Four – The London Conundrum

Though we had initially planned to return to London (or thereabouts) with Albion, the past few months have had us questioning our decision. On the one hand, our friends, social lives and work opportunities are in London. On the other hand, London sucks.

Rammed-tube1

NOPE AGAIN.

Everything’s too expensive, the tubes are packed, the streets are packed and – worse – the canals are so overpacked we don’t even know if we’ll be able to moor up when we get there.

That being said, we do need to be able to commute in easily for various reasons and the Oxford/upper reaches of the GU have not been ideal for this (up until literally this week, getting into London has meant a four-hour round trip and extortionate train fares that would be better spent on buying fun dog toys that I like more than the dog does).

IT'S A GIANT JAMMY DODGER.

IT’S A GIANT JAMMY DODGER!?

So, while we are heading back into London for a bit, it’s really for a change of scenery from the remoteness of the Oxford and we’ll probably spend the rest of the summer exploring the Stort and going back up the Grand Union again.

After all, what’s the point of living on a boat if you’re not going to discover what lies on the nearest easily-commutable-distance-from-London-with-plenty-of-shops-and-boating-facilities horizon?

Adventure is Rickmansworth.

Adventure is Rickmansworth.

 

Albion: Before, During, and After

Yes! After a teeny tiny three months of DIY, OPDIFY (Other People Do It For You) and TABFDIYBILST (Taking A Break From DIY Because It’s Like Super Tiring), Albion is finally finished! In the way that only a boat can be finished, which is not at all, ever.

There’s still a million things we need or want to do but installing new solar panels, refitting the entire kitchen, getting new reclaimed wood counter tops and floors, and generally tidying up the boatman’s cabin will all have to wait until we’re able to Bring Out Another Thousand.

Still, everything we initially set out to do is done and we now have a proper bedroom, a freshly painted and decorated living room, and a completely new bathroom. Which doesn’t sound like a lot of work now but it WAS.

See:

The Bedroom

Although we had a bedroom in the back cabin, it had a fold-down bed that we didn’t think was very practical for the two of us on a daily basis. Not wanting to waste the huge space under the tug deck, we decided to turn it into a little bedroom den. And when I say ‘we’, I mean our amazing builder Robbie did it. (Although Ed has just reminded me that we did do the varnishing. So that fresh woodsy vibe you see is allllll us).

Before:

IMG_9154_2 IMG_9153_2 IMG_9152_2

During:

IMG_9172_2           IMG_9375_2    IMG_9385_2           IMG_9371_2  IMG_9392_2           IMG_9151_2 IMG_9372_2

After:  

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            IMG_9935             IMG_9936            

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The Living Room/Kitchen

The living room was already pretty nice so all we had to do was paint it white, decorate it, and install a sofa.

This took about three weeks. We painted it nine times. Nine layers of paint that still peel off at the lightest brush of a limb. As I mentioned before, never buy cheap B&Q paint.

Before

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During:  

IMG_9298  IMG_9305_2       IMG_9331_2 IMG_9332_2       IMG_9414_2 IMG_9427_2

NO.

NO.

After:

IMG_9869
      IMG_9866 (4)    IMG_9643_2  IMG_9940       IMG_9501_2IMG_9510_2

The Bathroom

The bathroom was the hardest room in the whole boat (and that’s counting the living room and its B&Q anti-paint). First of all, apart from building the bedroom from scratch, this was the only room that we completely ripped out and started again. It hadn’t been touched for about 20 years and needed new EVERYTHING.

Second of all, there was no sink and no space for a sink. We had all manner of problems with the sink and where to put it, at one point considering fold-down caravan style options or just having to brush our teeth in the shower. Eventually we decided to chop the top off the existing cupboard and turn it into a plinth. This involved gently coaxing our builder into drilling a new waste hole in the side of the boat. I can guarantee you, there is no more unpleasant aural sensation for a boat owner than hearing a drill go through your boat’s hull.

…Apart from the ‘uh oh’ that came afterwards. (Luckily it was just because our tough tug hull had snapped the drill bit, rather than because we were, you know, sinking).

Third of all, we had to rip out part of the kitchen just to get into the walls to fit the new shower.

Fourth of all, we chose the most beautiful but most impractical boat tiles ever. Not only were they so thick and huge that they were nearly impossible to cut, they were so heavy we had to put concrete blocks under the bedroom floor just to stop us capsizing.

Look how pretty though!

Look how pretty though!

Fifth of all: sanding.

Just so much sanding. Endless hours of sanding. I have new muscles just from sanding. There was dust in places dust oughtn’t to be. I once lost Ed in a cloud of dust.

The problem was the traditional scumble varnish that was all over the walls. We quite like it in the living room but we wanted the bathroom to feel fresh, bright and clean. This meant we had to sand all the scumble off. Five million years later, it was ready to varnish, tile, and decorate.

Before:

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 14.44.38 Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 14.44.24 IMG_9159

During (of which there are many, many pictures because it took us so long to during the hell out of this bathroom):

IMG_9160_2      IMG_9157

IMG_9519_2

The kitchen taking one for the team.

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Fitting the new shower tray. 

IMG_9395_2  IMG_9397_2  IMG_9412_2

IMG_9345_2  IMG_9413_2

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IMG_9404_2  IMG_9409_2

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IMG_9537_2   IMG_9538_2

After:

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IMG_0690   IMG_0691

 IMG_0703

Et voila! It is done. For now.


N.B. A foreword to anyone coming to visit our boat: There is blood in the varnish, sweat in the grout and there are tears in the wall paint. We will not accept anything other than effusive and adulating praise for all our handiwork. We are especially unreceptive to comments such as “Missed a bit!” or “Oops that’s a bit wonky!” This is the best boat interior renovation you have ever seen and will ever see in your lifetime and all of the lifetimes following. Trust me. I have a new axe.

 

The Journey So Far

Remember when I said we’d be moving on to Albion in ‘about a week and a half’?

"Hahahah good one, past Carli!"

“Hahahah good one, past Carli!”

In reality, Albion is still not finished and we weren’t actually able to move in for a good three weeks.

HOWEVER, she is now fully liveable in…able. The bedroom under the tug deck was completed a few weeks ago, the bathroom is pretty much done bar some finishing touches and the living room is finally white after 11 coats of crap B&Q paint (do not buy crap B&Q paint).

Trust me.

Trust me.

However there’s still loads we want to do and, with that in mind, I’m saving my ‘Albion: Before, During and After’ pictures post until we’ve really properly finished (although if you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen a few snaps there).

Instead, I’ve got a bit of an update about where we’ve been so far.

Oxfordshire

Where we’ve been so far.

With only superficial work to be done and the assistance of professional builders no longer required, we left the comforting womb of Stowe Hill Marina two weeks ago and set off into the abandoned wilderness that is the Oxford Canal, home to sheep, more sheep, red brick bridges, more red brick bridges and never ever any phone signal.

IMG_9708

IMG_9652

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Believe it or not these are all different bridges.

This same stretch was actually just featured on Great Canal Journeys, the Timothy West and Prunella Scales boating programme. This has been very exciting for us, not least because I have been doing some of the steering and recently managed to get into a diamond lock that made even the experienced Timothy West do a little crash.


Like. A. Boss.

I’m more than a little proud of this, especially as Ed’s always been the designated driver due to superior unpanicking skills.

Now that we own our own boat though, we decided that we should take it in turns to be skipper and so far I’ve managed to steer us out of some pretty sticky situations, such as the time we became grounded on a shallow bit of canal and nearly capsized until I saved the day with some expert tiller manoeuvring (Ed might have been simultaneously pushing us off the side with a barge pole, I don’t know, I was too busy saving the day). Or the time when another boat came round a corner so quickly that he didn’t leave himself enough time to turn and a crash was only avoided by my selfless decision to ground our boat on the side of the canal in order to get out of the way.

"It sort of sounds an awful lot like Carli just runs the boat aground every time she takes the tiller" - IDIOTS MIGHT THINK.

“It sort of sounds an awful lot like Carli just runs the boat aground every time she takes the tiller.” – IDIOTS MIGHT THINK.

The Oxford Canal itself is part beautiful and part pretty weird, in that we’ve been treated to lots of beautiful scenery but we’ve seen some pretty weird stuff too.

IMG_9786

Like the time we discovered a skinned deer carcass on the towpath and initially thought it was a person.

We even braved the terrifying 1,867m Braunston Tunnel:

When I say ‘braved’ I mean Ed braved the tunnel and I hid inside making a timelapse video and only crying a little bit maybe once.

The Oxford is also pretty remote. Unlike the Grand Union, towns with shops and internet signal are few and far between so our original route keeps altering. Unfortunately I need the internet to work from home so we’ve been forced to move on several times from places we’d like to have stopped for longer.

HOW DO PEOPLE LIVE HERE?

HOW DO PEOPLE LIVE HERE?

Even the places we thought would be ideal have turned out to be the opposite. For example, we had planned to stay in Banbury for a couple of weeks to give us time to settle down and have good access to trains into London. My mum lives nearby and it’s a pretty town. We thought it would be nice.

Sadly, it was not. On account of the little shits.

We’re used to little shits on the canal, having spent our first boating year in London, but the ones in Banbury are somehow even worse. Instead of doing anything solid like actually mugging you, they just race up and down the towpath on their expensive BMX bikes, sporting 2004’s emo haircuts and calling everyone twozzas.

What language are you even speaking?

What language are you even speaking?

They’re all so painfully middle class that it’s 100x more annoying, especially because you know that — instead of lurking around shopping centres after closing time (yeah I see you smoking weed behind Debenhams) — they probably do have better things they could be doing.

Oh shut up and go home to the £400 PlayStation you definitely have.

Oh shut up and go home to the £400 PlayStation you definitely have.

On our first night in Banbury, the steam from the cooker kept setting the fire alarm off so we had to open the hatch onto the towpath. Within minutes, one LS had poked his head through the door. When Ed politely asked if we could help him, he panicked and raced off on his bike, yelling insults over his swiftly retreating shoulder.

It wasn’t until Ed went to lock up later that night that we realised they’d returned and untied the back of the boat in retaliation, setting us adrift across the canal. It wasn’t very dangerous, it didn’t do any damage, it was just really really annoying and made me want to shake my fist and clip people round the ear and other such irritable elderly person habits.

"You come back here you little shit, I'll give you what for!"

“You come back here you little shit, I’ll set your face adrift!”

And while you’re being attacked by youths from the towpath, your boat is constantly being attacked from the other side by retired boating boy racers.

This wasn’t just a problem in Banbury, this is all over the Oxford. While we tend to pass moored boats at a slow tickover (because, goddammit, if a sign tells me to do something, I’ll do it), these Golden Age boaters zoom around as though they’re afraid they might not actually make it to the end of their journey. I’ve lost count of the times our little boat has been rocked so hard by speeding oldies that it’s knocked over all my new pot plants.

ThumbHyacinth_Bucket

BOATING HAS TURNED ME INTO HYACINTH BUCKET.

Thankfully we’ve settled for a while on the outskirts of Oxford and hope to help the pot plants recover from this traumatic journey and once more piece together the semblance of a normal life.

For the time being you can keep your eyes peeled for us in your local Ikea and hopefully I can share our finished interior pictures soon.

 

Progress

Things are happening on Albion! People who understand tools are building things I’ve asked them to build!

Here she is in the dry dock the other week, having her insides all nice and warmed up with spray foam.

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For those of you who aren’t currently trying to turn a floating fridge into a bedroom, spray foam is a type of insulation that will hopefully stop us freezing to death in our sleep. Yay!

The rest of the bedroom under the deck is taking shape and we now have a nice curved ceiling and wooden walls which will soon be joined by an insulated floor and some shelves for the keeping of important boat equipment.

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Important boat equipment.

It also has a hobbit hole for a bedroom door, which is great for shouting things like “”We don’t want any adventures here, thank you!”

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I am now going to speak solely in Bilbo Baggins quotes.

The other big project is the bathroom, which we have decided to pretty much rip out and start afresh.

So far our builder has taken out the old shower tray to put a new one in…

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…and chopped the top off this cupboard to make way for a sink (more on that another time).

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Soon the bathroom will be decorated by these lovely, lovely tiles…

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…this copper shower…

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…and this very specifically-labelled copper tap.
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For all your women-washing needs!

It’s all very exciting!

And expensive.

Mostly expensive.

For example, did you know that mattresses cost more than one hundred pounds? Even at IKEA where you can get a lamb shank for £2.95.

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Luckily Sweden did deliver on sofas, and we found this excellent one for £95.

And those of you who saw the DFS Winter Sale adverts know there's nothing I love more than a bargain sofa.

And those of you who saw the DFS Winter Sale adverts know there’s nothing I love more than a bargain sofa.

Anyway, our builder reckons we can move on in about a week and a half but until then there are a million other little jobs that need doing so we’ll be back and forth with our NEW TOOL KIT…

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EAT YOUR HEART OUT BOB.

… so that Ed can get on with lots of DIY and I can get on with putting pictures of it on the internet.

More updates soon but I’ll leave you with this picture of Mother Nature just loving the hell out of us and our new boat.

Was the QEII blessed with rainbows? I don't think so.

Was the QEII blessed with rainbows? I DON’T THINK SO.

 

 

Boating for the Sometimes Image Conscious – or, I can’t be the only one who gets annoyed when I break a nail

All boaters are boaty. But some boaters are more boaty than others.

The precise constitution of boatiness is often under fierce debate by the online canal community; “Oh you’ve been on your boat 10 years? Well I’ve been on mine 11 and a half!”

“11 and a half? I’ve been on 50 years!”

“50 years? Is that all? I came sailing out of my mother’s womb on a one-foot traditional working boat!”

"Who are you calling unboaty??"

“Who are you calling unboaty??”

Or, “Leaving lock paddles up is most unboaty.”

“Agreed, I always put lock paddles down everywhere I go unless instructed not to by a small laminated CRT notice.”

“You just do them everywhere you go? I frequently walk from one end of London to the other putting every single lock paddle down unless instructed not to by a small laminated CRT notice.”

“Just London? I once walked the length and breadth of the UK carrying my narrowboat on my back and putting down every single paddle on every lock even when people were in the middle of using them. And then I swam to the Netherlands and did the same thing. Unless instructed not to by a small laminated CRT notice, of course.”

You get the point.

"NO, I'M BOATACUS!"

“NO, I’M BOATACUS!”

However, the one thing that seems to be deemed the most unboaty of all is daintiness, or the appearance of not being willing to get your hands dirty. This is fair enough, boating is a fairly ‘get stuck in’ way of life and you can only be so dainty when you’re emptying your poo into a hole. The problem I have is that there seems to be a need to display this dogged ruggedness at all times, to prove that you’ve been the most covered in your own poo out of all of the boaters or that you’ve inhaled so much coal dust your very internal organs are made of diamonds.

This seems particularly to apply to lady boaters, who have to go even further to prove that they’re not too ladylike to mop up an overflowing cassette with their best dress once in a while because who needs clothes!? Strong, independent lady boaters are often celebrated in the community but there’s a vague feeling that (for some people) the ideal ‘strong lady boater’ is a woman who is not bothered about makeup and nice clothes and other frivolous things like that, the sort of lady who can easily heft five cassettes up to the elsan on her pinky and not give a damn about how many nails she breaks on the way.

I once read a comment on a canal forum from a gentleman boater deriding a young female whom he had overheard on the towpath wistfully dreaming of life on a boat. “But what if you broke a nail, dear?” he had snidely remarked (over the internet of course, not to her face).

Well you know what, old men of the internet? Sometimes breaking a nail is really annoying.

broke-my-nail-new-stiletto-shape

TELL ME THIS ISN’T ANNOYING.

It’s especially annoying when good nails can be part of your job.

Just to clarify, my job title isn’t Professionally Vain (I’m only at amateur level). It’s just that I work as an actress, and commercial castings often specify good hands and nails. They also specify other things like, ‘Not covered in coal dust’ or ‘Preferably no remains of own excrement on clothes’ so I often have to disembark from my vessel looking reasonably well put together. And it’s not just for my job either, some days I just want to look all right.

The sad thing is, on these days I feel ashamed. I feel embarrassed to be seen climbing carefully off my boat in heels, or shuffling around the sides of the boat trying not to get my outfit dirty. “Look at the unboaty one!” I expect to hear from all around. “She should not live on a boat if she wants to wear heels and makeup sometimes!”

"Whatever you're doing there, those are not the right shoes to be doing it in!"

“Whatever you’re doing there, those are not the right shoes to be doing it in!”

Sali Hughes made the ‘Feminism and Beauty’ argument far better than I ever could so you should read that instead. I’d just like to stand up for those of us who want to live on a boat but also look nice on some days, so here are my top tips on…

Boating for the Sometimes Image Conscious

1) Hands and Nails – Since I’ve talked about breaking nails so much, I’ll start with that. I knew that we’d be cold on the boat so my nails would probably get dry and break easily (as they do most winters) but I didn’t anticipate things like a hot stove burning the tip off my nail or the damaging effect of constantly handling cold, wet ropes. Here I am guilty of not taking my own advice because my nails are currently crap but, if you do happen to be a hand model moving on to a boat, I would recommend wearing gloves at all times and investing in a hardcore hand cream.

2) Hair – One thing I did not foresee about moving onto a boat was having to give up my hairdryer because it drains our battery too much. I replaced it with a low wattage travel hairdryer but that only dries and does nothing to stop my hair and fringe turning into the sort of voluminous, un-styled bob that should only be seen on a page boy from the Dark Ages.

It's astonishing how rarely I get sent for 'medieval child' castings.

It’s astonishing how rarely I get sent for ‘medieval child’ castings.

If you want your boaty hair to blow sleek and beautiful in the wind as you cruise round the canals, I recommend getting a smoothing leave-in cream to tame your locks because your travel hairdryer certainly ain’t gonna do it. I also just found out you can get wireless travel straighteners too so will be purchasing some of those ASAP.

3) Skin – It’s only been recently brought to my attention that burning certain types of cheaper coal might cause your skin to break out. I’m not sure I’ve experienced this but I do know that coal dust gets everywhere and that touching your face with coaly hands probably won’t be great for the complexion. Make sure you have a meticulous cleansing routine to get the Industrial Revolution off your face before you go to bed.

4) Clothes – Some girls have Winter and Summer wardrobes. I have Clothes and Crap Boat Clothes. I underestimated how deliciously filthy I’d get clambering over the boat and scaling lock ladders so now I keep some clothes set aside for general boating and other, cleaner garments set aside for auditions and non-boating activities where people understand less why you’re covered in moss.

5) General Hygiene – When water usage is so restricted, long luxurious showers are pretty much off-limits. I highly recommend that you MAXIMISE YOUR SHOWER TIME. You often have to run the water a little before it heats up so use that time to do a bit of washing up and then you’ll be stepping into a nice, hot shower. Leave conditioner to soak in while you shave your legs. Hire a professional leg shaver to do it for you while you shampoo. Whatever you need to do. It’s also wise to accept that you’ll probably be showering less than you might in a house so baby wipes and dry shampoo are an absolute must.

That’s all I can think of for the time being but feel free to get in touch with tips if you’re a SIC (Sometimes Image Conscious) boater too. And remember, it doesn’t matter what you look like. If you want to wear makeup, fine. If you don’t that’s fine too. Do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable and happy but for God’s sake don’t forget to put lock paddles down (unless instructed not to by a small laminated CRT notice).

 

Bring Out Another Thousand

There’s been a lot of press for boating recently, largely concerning the lifestyle’s popularity with young people looking for a cheap way to live.

And also because it’s pretty cool.

At this juncture I googled 'hipster' to prove a point but found my screen suddenly and inexplicably filled with pictures of myself. I dunno.

At this juncture I googled ‘hipster’ to prove a point but found my screen suddenly and inexplicably filled with pictures of myself. I dunno.

Admittedly, renting a boat is cheaper than renting a flat in London but since that venture often comes with various life-threatening side effects depending on how conscientious your waterlord is, I’ll leave that topic for the meantime and focus on Buying a Boat. Which is what We Did.

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This boat! This beautiful, beautiful boat. Have I mentioned yet that we bought this excellent boat?

Buying a boat is decidedly Not Cheap. Yes, okay, it’s cheaper than buying a house but it comes with all sorts of hidden costs like Anti-Sinking Repairs and Getting Rid Of That Weird Engine Noise Callout Fees. None of which are mentioned in the ‘Boats are really cool!’ articles because rooting around in a gungy bilge trying to find which bit of your engine fell off isn’t so cool, I guess.

So I thought I’d write a little bit about what buying a boat actually costs, to save you collecting all those stripy tops and getting that anchor tattooed on your head just yet.

Firstly, before you can buy the boat of your dreams, it’s really recommended that you get a survey done to make sure your new home doesn’t sink two minutes into its maiden voyage.

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I don’t know if it comes across, but sinking is really high on my list of general concerns.

From what we could see, a full survey can cost anywhere between £300 and £500 (if anyone’s interested, we opted for Michael Clarke at Northern Star Marine who was lovely and thorough and helpful and should be hired immediately to survey everything in your life to make sure it won’t sink).

He could have prevented this.

He could have prevented this.

In order to have a full survey, you’ll need to take your dreamboat out of the water so its hull can be properly tested. Depending on whether you do this in a dry dock or lift it out of the water with a crane, this too can cost anywhere between £150 and £300.

This sort of crane won't work.  For anything less than £10,000 a day, darling.

This sort of crane won’t work.
For anything less than £10,000 a day, darling.

Hurray! Your dreamboat passed its survey! Don’t sail away just yet though, you’re going to need insurance for that sexy 11-tonnes of steel, just in case…

YOU KNOW WHY.

YOU KNOW WHY.

I do have to admit the insurance wasn’t actually anywhere near as expensive as I’d imagined BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. You didn’t think you could just waltz around on the canals willy nilly without contributing to society, did you?

Boaters: historically big on contributing to society.

Boaters: historically big on contributing to society.

No, no madam or sir, you also now have to pay for a Canal & River Trust license to give you permission to rove the British inland waterways without being hung, drawn and quartered or being forced to get a giant black ‘P’ tattoo.

Or worse, a Black Eyed Peas tattoo,

Or worse, a giant Black Eyed Peas tattoo.

And that’s before you take into account any building work you might want to have done. Boat building is a specialist skill and doesn’t (or shouldn’t) come cheap.

Oh also, just before you sail off to apologise to your bank manager, have you bought a windlass?

A BW key?

Mooring pins?

Spare rope?                       A coal bucket?                       An Ecofan?               A tool box?

Elsan blue?      Fenders?                        A carbon monoxide alarm?

Coal?                            A poker?                                             A tippy?

Kindling?                                                A chimney brush?

Grease?

A mallet?

A novelty tiller pin (compulsory)?

There’s one saying that’s been repeated to us a few times since we bought Albion: “Do you know what BOAT stands for?”

“Bring Out Another Thousand.”

Introducing Albion

When we first decided to buy a boat, we made up our minds that we didn’t want too much of a challenge to start out with. Keeping a modern boat running is hard enough as it is, so the maintenance and expertise required to run a traditional boat seemed all a bit too much for our very first purchase.

Sunnmørsfæring_-_Herøy_kystmuseum

“WE’RE GOING FOR SIMPLE AND EASY TO USE, GUYS.”

We decided that it was best to go for a fairly new build with an easy-to-run modern engine much like the one we have now, and about 45-foot of well laid-out living space.

Meet Albion — the 1980 51-foot traditional tug style narrowboat with a vintage Petter PH2W 2-cylinder engine that we actually bought:

Plans be damned, she's beautiful!

Plans be damned, she’s beautiful!

As it turned out, we didn’t want a modern narrowboat at all. The more boats we looked at — and we saw some lovely ones — the more we realised we actually wanted something with a bit more history and character. Albion popped up on the second day of our online search and seemed too good to be true. She’s the perfect blend of old and new; though not precisely a historic boat, from the research we’ve done it seems that she did used to be a working boat before being lengthened into the shape she is today. It’s going to be a whole new learning curve for us but we think it’ll be worth it to own something that bit more special.

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That being said, ask me how I’m getting on with the engine in a few months.

Luckily for us, the previous owner has fitted her out really nicely inside too:

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All picture credit goes to our lovely brokers, Rugby Boats, by the by. If you’re thinking of buying a boat, I would highly recommend them. Or even if you’re not thinking about buying a boat you should buy a boat from them anyway.

There is a bit of work to be done on her still. At the moment the sleeping space is a replica of a traditional boatman’s cabin with a fold-down bed which, while lovely…

Look! Really cool.

Look! Lovely.

…is a little less practical for the two of us, so we’re going to have the space under the front deck converted into a bedroom.

These are the official technical plans sent over by our boat builder.

The official technical plan drawn up by our boat builder.

We’re also going to have to get used to a bit less space than the modern 65-footer we have now. While Albion is actually about the length we were looking for, she is narrower and smaller inside than some other boats we’d looked at. Still, she will (should) be easier to move round and easier to moor up than our current behemoth and she’s just the nicest looking boat we’d seen — inside and out. All this should make up for the amount of clothes I’m going to have to throw away and the fact that I’ll only be able to have one friend over at a time.

"DO YOU LIKE MY NEW HOME? No the others can't come in yet, it's one in one out."

“DO YOU LIKE MY NEW HOME? No the others can’t come in yet, it’s one in one out.”

Anyway, all joking aside we are absolutely over the moon to be the proud new owners of such a unique and beautiful boat and we can’t wait to move aboard.

Updates on building work soon!

We Bought A Boat

Apologies, dear readers (if I have any left). A new blog post has been long overdue but I do have a good excuse in that I have recently been buying the hell out of a boat.

Yep, you heard correctly. After one year of trial boating, one two-month trip up the Grand Union, countless boxes of poo, many many ducks, one ACTUAL WINTER (sort of) and just a few mishaps (per day), we somehow thought it was a really good idea to buy a boat of our very own.

Which meant my pre-Christmas conversations all went something like this:

“What did you do yesterday, Carli?”
“Ermm… I got up, had breakfast, bought a boat, played the DOWNTON ABBEY BOARD GAME?!”
“What??”
“I know! I had no idea they’d even brought a board game out!”

If I'm honest, it's not actually that great.

If I’m being honest, it wasn’t actually that great.

Naturally, buying a boat was a huge-mongous decision that we wanted to take slowly and carefully so we went out and bought the first one we saw.

Of course we shopped around (for a few hours) but we were insanely lucky to discover that the boat of our dreams had gone up for sale just before we had started looking so, after a quick visit to make sure we weren’t about to accidentally buy a toy boat, we put in an offer and had it accepted.

How I felt, buying a boat.

How I felt, buying a boat.

I don’t know if you’ve ever done it before but buying a boat is a terrifying business. It’s sort of exactly like buying a house except, if your surveyor says your new purchase is likely to sink, he doesn’t mean over a couple of decades.

The sheer amount of things you have to check is mind-boggling; “Does it have an engine?” seems like it would be an unnecessary question but APPARENTLY NOT. Beyond that you have to make sure it has everything else you require such as proper electrics, solar panels, a toilet and not a hole in the bottom.

"Ah, yes. I'm afraid 'not sunk' was on my list of requirements."

“Ah, yes. I’m afraid ‘not sunk’ was on my list of requirements.”

Having said that, I read somewhere that boaters get ‘The One’ syndrome, whereby they instantly fall in love with their chosen boat regardless of whether or not it possesses everything they had wanted. This was pretty much the case with us too, but luckily the additions we want won’t cost too much or be too hard to sort out so we feel like we’ve made the right decision.

We were also lucky enough to organise our purchase through a broker — the lovely Steve and Dominic at Rugby Boats — so we didn’t have to go through the nerve-racking process of dealing directly with a boat owner and handing over a large deposit to a complete stranger (not that I’m saying boaters are anything but completely trustworthy).

Pirate

Far from it.

 

For the moment I won’t share any details about the boat because we are awaiting its survey next week before we can know for sure that we really own it. All I can say that it is AN HISTORIC BOAT (mostly) and that, should everything go well, you shall soon see me out and about on the canals looking pretty much like this.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 15

Who’s that guuuuurl la la lala la la la lala la la.

 

 

Updates after the survey!

How to tell if you’re a boater.

We’ve been livin’ la vida boater for eight months now!

Naturally this means I now know absolutely everything there is to know about boating, including how to tell when you are (or are not) a boater.

Do you suspect you might be a boater? Check my list to find out.

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 12.07.561. You live on a boat. 

We'll start out easy.

We’ll start out easy.

2. Answering the question ‘Where do you live?’ always results in an hour-long conversation.  

"You live on a boat? Like one of those long ones? Where is it based? You move every two weeks?? Why do you live on a boat? ISN'T IT COLD?!"

“You live on a boat? Like one of those long ones in Camden? Where is it based? You move every two weeks?? Why do you live on a boat? ISN’T IT COLD?!”

 3. Coal fire season kicks in and suddenly your idea of ‘clean’ is not like other people’s idea of ‘clean’. 

"THAT'LL DO."

“THAT’LL DO.”

4. Your idea of speeding is also a bit different from other people’s idea of speeding.

giphy-1

5. You can always tell when Winter Is Coming.

You know you’re a normal person if you realise that winter is coming when you step out of the front door and see your breath in the air for the first time that year.

Pictured: normal person.

Pictured: normal person experiencing winter.

You know you’re a boater if you realise that winter is coming when you wake up in bed and see your breath in the air for the first time that year.

Pictured: boater.

Pictured: boater experiencing winter.

6. In fact, you are far more in tune with the weather in general. Particularly when it’s windy.

giphy-2

7. Annoying neighbours are a thing of the past.

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8. ‘Moving house’ takes on a whole new meaning. 

giphy-6

9. Trees suddenly become even more attractive than they were before. 

All you can see is Warmth Potential.

All you can see is Warmth Potential.

10. You’re considering being really naughty in the lead-up to Christmas because you could really do with the coal. 

"Excuse me Santa, is this Excel?"

“Excuse me Santa, is this Excel?”

11. You have, at some point, worried about both paper cuts and rat urine in the same sentence. 

Also about how to pronounce 'Weil's'.

Also about how to pronounce ‘Weil’s’.

12. Much of your life revolves around poo. 

giphy-9

13. You have become really good at fixing things for yourself. 

giphy-11

Mostly.

14. You have also become really adept at looking like you know what you’re doing when actually you have no idea what you’re doing. 

"YEP THIS ALL SEEMS CORRECT."

“YEP THIS ALL SEEMS CORRECT.”

15. Lastly, you know precisely how it feels to both completely hate and utterly love where you live at exactly the same time. 

giphy-13

 

The End.