Yes, we’ve done it without a bolthole...
Iseem to have disappointed Joe Patterson (Letters, CB, June) by confessing that we owned a house as well as a boat. It seems we weren’t ‘proper’ continuous cruisers as we hadn’t, in his words, given up everything for a life afloat.
Well I’ve met a few people who have done exactly that and I must say some of them have seemed quite staggeringly naïve: selling their houses and buying boats without even having spent a holiday, let alone a winter, on the water.
True, sometimes it works out but, as often as not, one sees the boat up for sale a year later when they have discovered the reality hasn’t lived up to their dreams. Emptying a toilet when you’re surrounded by ice or keeping your batteries charged during the long dark days of winter don’t figure in many romantic visions.
Just to put the record straight, we did sell up on land and spent five years on the waterways without a bolthole to return to. Properly cruising, too, not tied up on a winter mooring attached to a handy length of electric string. Our boat was indeed our home.
We used some of our house money to buy a bigger boat but we put the rest in the bank, ready to buy another property if and when we needed one. And with property prices rising and what we could get with our modest pot diminishing, we eventually cashed in our chips and bought a little house to rent out while we carry on boating and return to when we can’t.
For this is the point, of course. Life can get in the way of all one’s plans, whether those plans involve boating, moving to the sunshine of southern Spain or biking around the world. Health or family circumstances are things you overlook at your peril, especially when you’re getting on a bit.
If I was 40 years younger, I would chuck in my rented flat and move on to the water without a backward glance. Or would I? I would have a job and be trying to fit in workaday life with floating about on a boat – which means, likely as not, I’d either be in a marina (and that would be pretty much like living in a flat) or dodging the CRT checkers as a continuous moorer. And that’s not my idea of boating, either.
These days, if you’re young, fit and free of ties, there are a host of ways to give up everything and break free of the rat race – and most of them a whole lot bolder than floating around the canals. But if, like Steve Haywood and me, you’ve served your time and waited until the mortgage is paid, the kids are settled and the pension arrives then that spirit of adventure will likely have become tempered with a spot of worldly wisdom.
But so what? We know what we want to do and are happy to make the commitment – and it is a commitment. We might have a house lurking somewhere but we’re still giving up gardens, shelves full of books, friends just a few streets away, the local pub, and probably a car. Plus unlimited hot water!
Last winter was the first in years that we spent away from the boat. We left the boat at a yard to have some work done and returned to the house for a while to do some work on that ourselves. All that this taught us was that houses are complicated, expensive and nowhere as much fun to live in as a boat. We couldn’t wait to get back.
Having a house or a spot of money in the bank or a pension doesn’t stop one enjoying the waterways or experiencing the highs and lows, adventures and misadventures of boating life. It’s useful; a source of income or simply a bit in reserve – rather in the way that the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ offers a handy overdraft facility for youngsters.
So I’m afraid you’re wrong, Joe. When I was stuck on a mudbank or stripping down a blown engine, or when Steve was marooned on a flooded River Ouse, owning a house was no help at all.
‘We’re still giving up gardens, shelves full of books, friends nearby, a local pub, and probably a car. Plus unlimited hot water!’