Can I Live On A Narrow Boat?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog which I thought would sink like a brick, it has turned out to be one of the most popular blogs I have written, so thanks guys! In that vain I am going to attempt a few more blogs which centre on the art of slow living, and how, if you want it to living narrow could work for you too.

For the first of these blogs that’s exactly what I want to look at, could narrow living work for you too? We so often hear ‘Oh I couldn’t do it’ it’s a knee-jerk reaction, and when you actually think about it, could you? I’m going to try and answer that for you in this post.

In terms of your current living arrangements would you say:

  1. I have enough space
  2. I could do with more
  3. You can never have too much space
  4. I have too much space

I think if you answered B to that question, narrow living could work for you. What I hear you cry, I’m going to let you all in on a little secret here, it may be a totally radical thought but since moving aboard I feel like I have more space than ever before. Ok stay with me on this one. When I had more literal space I felt the need to fill said space, with all kinds of ‘stuff’ since moving aboard I don’t have the literal space to do that. This means that I’ve had to be so much more selective about what I choose to share this limited space with me. This in turn leaves me with a feeling of a greater sense of space. I appreciate this notion may sound totally mad, but if you had to think about it, and you needed to downsize on a huge scale how much would you actually choose to keep with you? I would hope a lot of the clutter wouldn’t feature on your must have list, it’s just space filling stuff, take away that literal space and you have a much greater sense of actual space. (I promise I am not on drugs, but it’s something I strongly believe in).

When you think of your current cost of living would you say:

  1. It’s far too expensive
  2. I spend the right amount
  3. I need to find a cheaper way to live

Again I think answer B would best set you up for life aboard. I’m not going to lie here, there are definite areas where we make savings over your traditional home. However we meet so many people who exclaim on what a low cost lifestyle we must have, and it just isn’t the case. Much like a traditional house we had to take out a mortgage to contribute towards the boat, granted it’s not in the hundred of thousands like most mortgages, but it is significant and it does need paying for monthly. Utilities well they are a lot lower, but you have the cost of diesel to keep you moving and the cost of boat maintenance which at times can seem relentless, not to mention the incredible license fee the CRT charge. It all adds up and we honestly don’t see a huge difference in costs to when we lived in a traditional house.

How attached to your mod cons would you say you are?

  1. I need all the latest gadgets no more than 5 feet away from me at all times
  2. I like to be connected to the world but it doesn’t drive me
  3. I have no interest in them

Are you noticing a pattern here? I would again say that answer B represents us the best. I’m sure there are people out there who have SKY TV and what not hooked up their boat so if you are totally dependent I am sure there are ways round it. We find ourselves in the middle, we have our phones, we’ve spent most of our lives with the internet so rely on it a lot more than we should. We have all of this stuff, thanks to the advances in mobile internet it isn’t a problem. But we don’t have all the fancy TV subscriptions and what not.

When it comes to entertaining would you say:

  1. We like to have a few people over every now and then
  2. Our place is party central
  3. We love a good dinner party

If you answered B or C to this one, honestly living narrow may not be for you. It’s a real toughie but space is tight, whilst we regularly have people over there isn’t much space for much, we’ll often find ourselves spilling out onto the towpath instead. Dinner parties, well they are a virtual no no, the space for dining is limited, never mind the space for prepping and cooking at the same time.

How much do you like the person you intend to live with?

  1. A real lot
  2. They annoy me from time to time
  3. We argue like Swan and Canadian Geese

Listen guys, a narrow boat is a small space, you have to be a bit more than tolerable of the person you are hoping to share it with. Not only is the space small, but it’s also narrow (go figure!) but this means you almost have to relearn moving again, you can’t navigate the space in the same way, and your guaranteed to step on one another toes from time to time, both figuratively and literally. What’s more this additional human makes the small space smaller so things can feel claustrophobic sometimes. The other person is guaranteed to know if you have the huff with them, there is no hiding or sulking out of view! But really, as mad as it may sound, we did have to learn how to live around one another again, it’s such a unique space, and this isn’t for everyone. I would say it helps that we both work away a fair amount too!

Do you have pets?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Honestly whether you have them or not it doesn’t really make a jot of difference, I recently posted on how much happier our two dogs seem to be since moving aboard. Likewise we see people on the waterways with cats all the time, they adapt, the same way that you do. That being said we have a friend with three St.Bernards and a German Shepherd, life aboard may not be as easily adaptable for them!

Are you ready for a lifestyle overhaul?

  1. Yes
  2. No

I’m a campaigner for how life aboard is totally possible, but one thing I will say you have to be ready for that life to change somewhat. It will change in good ways, be prepared to be a lot more outdoorsy and part of a great community. But there are also some more testing changes. These tend to focus more on how comfortable life is in a traditional house. Turn on the tap for example, water appears, get ready for carrying emergency bottles of water on your narrow boat for when the tank runs out because the canal is iced over and you haven’t been able to get to a water point. Likewise your gas bottle is guaranteed to run out part way through cooking your Sunday roast. It’s boat life, and it’s nobody’s problem except your own. There isn’t a man from the water company  coming to re-instate your supply. It can be annoying, it can be frustrating and will at times get you down.

Do you value your sleep?

  1. Yes
  2. No

I’ve had some of the best nights sleep of my life aboard Fantine, equally some of the worst. Whether it’s the wind battering you, or an invasion of Canadian Geese the peace and quiet that comes from life aboard leaves you so much more tuned in to slight noises, in particular dripping noises, which will wake you up in the middle of the night. When you do have the peace and quiet sleep is just glorious.

Do you get sea-sick?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Whichever you answer on this one, be prepared. I had never suffered with sea-sickness in the past, when I made the move to life aboard I struggled with it x10, to the point on week two I was close to saying I can’t do this. I persevered and was ok in the end, however if we got out on a long cruise now I do get a small bout of the sickness back. Really there is no way to test this, until you’re aboard you will never really know.

Anyway enough of the pop quiz, we hear a lot the exclamation from the people we meet that they simply could not live aboard, but we never really challenge them on why. I think space is a number one factor for people but it really isn’t the be all and end all in our opinions. There are other people who look at it for the wrong reasons, as a quick money saving solution rather than a long term lifestyle change.

Why did we decide a live aboard was right for us? Well initially for all the wrong reasons, we had a sizable house deposit which proved not to be all that sizeable. Living narrow offered us the opportunity to live in the heart of the countryside where we would never afford a house. In the beginning well it was a suck it and see nothing to loose exercise, if we hated it we could sell and look to buy something that wasn’t our dream, if we could cope with it, then we had a 5 year plan to continue to save alongside living narrow to accumulate a humongous deposit for our dream place. The reality? Well the lifestyle stole our hearts a little and right now, we can’t imagine anything other than narrow living.

Granted living narrow isn’t for everyone, but I think it could be for a few more people than you realise.

James & Kirsty

5 thoughts on “Can I Live On A Narrow Boat?

  1. Thank you for this. We are seriously thinking of selling our house which is in a town we no longer like living in and moving to our static caravan situated in a county we love but couldn’t afford to buy a property in. You have answered a lot of questions we have been asking ourselves, space, pets etc
    Love reading your blogs.


    1. Morning Paula,

      That’s no problem, I’m glad you liked this post. That sounds absolutely fantastic, but I totally understand it’s hard to take the plunge, or even to imagine living in such a small space. When you think about what you really need it’s easier. Best of luck with your potential move, and thank you for your support!
      James & Kirsty


    1. Morning Marie-Celine,

      We couldn’t believe it when we first saw a cat aboard, but they seem to adapt to it really well! Despite the odd lost moggy here and there (No more than you’d see in your average housing estate) they seem to get on with it without a problem!

      James & Kirsty

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi James & Kirsty. That’s good to know. Thank you for sharing that. I do tell myself that historically there have been many “ship’s cats” so they probably can adapt quite well. Have a lovely day! Mx


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