“Wow, you live on a boat”?
Yes, we live on a boat. It’s not impressive; it’s a trailer that floats. It’s not romantic, or nostalgic, or quaint, nor even warm.
We had a financial choice before we got married. Buy a pants house in a decent area, buy a decent house in a pants area, or buy a really nice narrow boat and moor it somewhere beautiful.
Andromeda is made of steel and is 70’ long, around 7’ 4" beam, about 25 tonnes (with all our stuff in her) and has all the mod cons (“Wow, you’ve got a DVD player, and a washing machine!” - well duh!). She'll do a neck wrenching 6.4 mph (flat out with the wind behind her). We’ve been living on her nearly 5 years and I write my blog from the cabin at the stern.
Sure there’s stuff you miss (a bath, bookshelves, space to stretch, warmth, a flushing toilet, a stable electricity supply, a dining table to role-play around) but it was a great choice for us. Any hardships (and winter can be nasty if you’re not ready for it) are far outweighed by the wildlife and the all-round tranquillity of the river. When you look out of the window in the morning and there are two foxes playing in the mist in the field opposite it kinda puts it all in context.
It was a good choice for us as both our families are ‘boaty’. Jema’s dad (Mike, nice bloke) runs River Side Studios (illustrated river maps and angling maps, nature maps etc.) and we go sailing as a family. There are Olympic yachtsmen scattered throughout Jemas blood line. I was brought up around canals and boats. My dad (Rob) builds, designs and rebuilds all kinds stuff (from a 1899 Baltic Trader which had been sitting at the bottom of the River Mersey for donkeys years, to his much acclaimed and custom designed 15' 9" beam Dory Skiffs etc.) and owns UK Epoxy Resins. For us, living on a boat was an obvious choice.
As I say, winter can be tough. We’re well prepared these days and know what’s coming, but having to run a DVD though the DVD player to get it to operating temperature so it’ll work, or dealing with frost on the bedroom floor, makes you wonder sometimes. Then there’s the flooding. Where we moor (on the junction between the Soar and the Trent at Red Hill Lock), in 2000, the river was a staggering 4 miles wide and 11’+ over the bank. Spring and summer are glorious though, and the roof of Andromeda becomes a second living room. You’re really aware of the change of season and you find you keep a constant eye on the weather, but that kinda keeps you awake and is all just part of the process.
We've done a fair bit of work to her over the years. Adding home comforts like a nice oak panneled office for me, a full paint-job in rich blue and cream, engine servicing, full rewiring and all that malarky. There's a lot of ongoing maintenance and rules and regs that have to be adheared to get licences and stuff.
A lot of people ask about the latin on the side, "In Ultisima Olim Ultisima Galactica", it means "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" and that took some translating I can tell ya. Hidden geekiness.
Ahhh, the stories we could tell of the chemical toilet. The time we nearly sank her and she was flooded bow to stern. The time the engine burst into flames and we drifted into the fishing competition. That surreal evening when we met the German oompah band. The bizarre stuff that floats past (let us know if you know anyone in Leicestershire who's missing a greenhouse) when the Soar is in flood. Tales of insane killer swans, of 'the lurker' and of dumb ass nesting ducks. The crackin' locals (hi Jody, Mary, Fiona, Don and Dorothy and all at Soar Bottom Lady Boat Tours and Portable Floormakers etc). The list is endless…
We love her. We don’t intend to live on her forever (the space factor and all) so we’re making the most of her while we’ve got her.
We’re lucky. To share a space this small you have to have a damn good relationship with the person you’re living with.
It’s a good life, and I’d recommend it to anyone.