We’ve been calling Fantine our home away from home for two months now. Owning Fantine sees us answering a lot of questions surrounding our narrow home choice. The question we get asked more than anything:
‘Does it feel like home?’
Blog done speak to you in a few days.
But in all seriousness, surprisingly it does, even in such a short space of time. I would go as far as to argue that it feels like home more quickly than any of the rented houses I have lived in.
What have we learnt?
Don’t downsize too much.
Whilst we thought that downsizing from a three bed semi would be difficult, I can’t help but feel that as part of the de-cluttering process we got rid of a few too many nick-nacks. We have empty cupboard and wall space which I am desperate to fill. But then it’s wonderful to feel like you have somewhat of a fresh start, and it has allowed us to accumulate new boaty themed items, I mean we even have a framed waterways map … if that doesn’t scream boat folk I don’t know what does.
Prepare to slow down
Life at four miles an hour can be pretty slow, who would of thought it, but really you need to learn, or be prepared for the art of slow living. Be that the journey from Whilton to Yelvertoft which took us two hours more than the route planner suggested, or the Cratch that would be completed in a month (Who doesn’t know a month on a boat is 6 weeks). Generally everything is slower, we think it’s wonderful, but be ready, there is an art to it, and it takes my uptight brain a bit of time to remember it.
It’s a small space
News flash Narrow Boats are narrow. Who would of seen that coming! As much as we are finding the space homely and whilst we still have cupboards to fill, the space is small, and organised differently to how you are used to. It’s something which just takes a bit of time to get accustomed to, whether that is planning what order to make dinner in, as there simply isn’t the room to use every pot and pan you own, or working on your arm muscles carrying the dog around cause you’re tired of tripping over them. It all just takes a little more planning.
Motion of the ocean
Ready your sea legs, I wrote a blog just a week after we had been aboard discussing my struggle with motion sickness Land Sick / Sea Sick / Motion Sick – My Plight. Quite frankly the first two weeks were pretty awful for me, and had me saying to James if this doesn’t subside I can’t do it. Thankfully around two weeks later I was back to normal, I still get told I’m swaying when I’m standing still but I’ve just decided to own it, like Jack Sparrow. But seriously consider whether your canal legs are going to be up to life aboard.
It’s all about organisation
Whilst I previously mentioned we had more space than I thought, we have cheated ever so slightly, we have a storage unit as well. Space is limited and you have to be clever about how you use it. Do you really need your winter coat, bobble hat and enormous jumpers to hand in July, sometimes yes but really it’s not practical. From the minute we started packing up the house I got my organisation head on, every box in storage is numbered, and everything in the box is listed. Need to find that Christmas jumper in a rush? You’ll find it in box 6. Sounds simple but it really has saved so much time and effort, when I do need something I can just ask James to stop in and bring home box numbered x, grab what I am after and return the box the next day. Easy Peasy organisation, and so worth the extra 30 minutes of packing required to implement it.
Making it home
Whilst you may buy a boat with someone elses idea of the perfect layout we would recommend looking at how you use the space. Did we make any drastic changes? No. But we did think about how we would like to use the space and planned our furniture around it. It is a small space and I think by thinking about this in the first instance we have ended up with maximum usable space. A big part of our planning was in creating defined ‘rooms’, this is completely done with furniture, but has made us feel like we have a living room, dining room and kitchen, in the small space that we have.
Make it permanent
My one rule when looking at any boat was it has to be permanent space and fixtures, what did I mean by this? I didn’t want to be turning our dining table into my bed every night. Whilst this may work perfectly for holidays or short cruises, I was adamant that this wouldn’t be acceptable for a long term, liveable space. So whilst you may have to scoot over the bed to get to the wardrobes, that’s much more acceptable to me than having to construct a bed every evening. Much more acceptable now I have painted the space and filled it with scatter cushions which annoy James Daily. It’s part of making it a home, but don’t be afraid to have rules on what the space should be for you, and thinking about how to change it to be that. Would everyone be a fan of the green we have painted in the living area, no but then neither is it their space to live in.
They seem like super simple things, but these are what we have found to be the key lessons we have learnt from our time aboard so far. We are still 100% on the steep learning curve of narrowboating, but we plan to keep you updated as we chug our way through.
James & Kirsty