Get On Board: With The Top Houseboat Living Hacks
The freedom of the open road – well, the open river anyway. Surrounded by nature. Fresh air but the city at your finger tips. Many have taken houseboat holidays, but becoming a ‘liveaboard’ is a whole different board game.
Now a confirmed landlubber, my family and I once embarked on this adventure. It was, I admit, pretty much ‘make or break’ for my marriage, but I can put my hand on my heart and say that my children had a fabulous childhood. While other local kids were sitting on the steps smoking at the local Tescos, bored, mine were building dens in forests, climbing trees, taking our little outboard for adventures on a marina and down the river. Sure they got up to mischief, but it was healthy mischief, and in a community that keeps an eye out for each other in a way I’ve not seen since my own childhood on army camps. (Yes, I still define myself after all these years as an army brat rather than just having itchy feet and a gipsy soul!)
If they stepped out of line or put themselves in danger, other boaters were quick to reprimand, safe in the knowledge that other boaters would appreciate them keeping an eye out. More than once we had to pretend to be really stern, having roared with laughter about the children’s latest antics. Like building a den with other children on the riverbank where they weren’t supposed to be – and then painting the inside, decorating it so that it stood out like a sore thumb. Like taking the outboard onto a nature reserve island where they weren’t supposed to go and getting caught and terrified by the warden.
Our boat, Eva Luna, was a fabulous British widebeam river barge, beautifully appointed with three cabins, a reasonable sized lounge and kitchen twice the size of the galley kitchen in the house we left behind. She was styled like a narrowboat, but for a family of four still had plenty of room.
Moving from a house to a boat needs forethought. It’s not an adventure for the faint hearted – you are living ‘off grid’ and things that British landlubbers take for granted, like running water, heating, electrics, showering, toilets etc all need a degree of planning. It takes a certain level of surefootedness and fitness to bring in logs for a wood burner when there’s ice on the boat. Boats don’t maintain themselves and water finds a way to get into the least expected places. And if you have a conscience, you’ll not be putting toxic chemicals into the river, even from the washing up. (We were lucky and had a massive holding tank on Eva Luna, but the washing up sink was ‘direct discharge’.)
We moved from a three bedroomed suburban home to a boat the size of a small flat. When I think of the things we gave away or sold for almost nothing, my hair curls. I had bought a beautiful bargain soft leather suite when Courts furniture store went into liquidation. It was, in all honesty, too big for even our house, and would never have got onto the boat. But I still wish we’d kept it. The same suite today would cost four or five times what I paid for it. (It really was a bargain.) We were paying for storage - I could easily have added that to what I’d stored.
Which brings me onto the real point of this blog. Storage meant that we could live our new, pared down lives without filling up someone else’s garage with the things I couldn’t bear to part with. There’s a boaters’ mantra for living successfully on a boat – one in, one out. You simply can’t accumulate excess, and the one time I did, sneaking a card box full of favourite handbags on board, my beautiful bags got covered in mould which just loved the damp dark environment of the bow space. (I refuse to throw away my Mulberry handbag even now, a decade later, but the harsh truth is that it still smells musty.)
For all other things, storage meant that I didn’t have to worry about the lack of space on the boat for things like Christmas decorations, out of season clothes, the children’s memorabilia, my work accounts which needed keeping for seven years. And those things didn’t go mouldy!
I cannot imagine how much more we’d have needed to store had we been on just a small ‘yoghurt pot’ as we affectionately call the fibreglass/plastic river boats that make trips along the river – although it has to be said that some are like palaces and look way more ocean-going than our Category C barge, which may well have been seaworthy, but I’d never have risked on the Bay of Biscay!
We didn’t access our storage often, probably twice a year as the seasons changed. Had easyStorage existed at the time, we’d have saved masses of money and not had to have hired vans to store things in the first place. (Our house move was akin to the army’s retreat from Mons!)
The people who had the berth opposite ours on the marina (having a ‘home mooring’ was essential), the owners of another widebeam barge, Mischief, also had a large storage unit in the centre of Reading. Their storage unit was way bigger than ours. Today owner Paul has taken to the road, determined to see as much of Europe and beyond as he can whilst he’s still able to, swapping Mischief for a rather luxurious camper van.
It would always have been a challenge for easyStorage getting things back to some of the riverside locations that we berthed at, but I know the easyStorage teams well enough now to know that they always find a way. Boaters are pretty ingenious too – from trolleys stored in boat boxes on the boat roof, to items (sometimes including small children!) being taken down towpaths in wheelbarrows, where there’s a boater, there’s a solution.
Combined with determination and ingenuity of the incredibly ‘can do’ easyStorage franchisees for us it would have provided an ideal solution. As a boater you’ll need to be back within a ten-mile radius of where things were picked up from to get free delivery back to the boat, but as boaters we have to somewhat plan ahead anyway, particularly as the seasons change and as inevitable boat maintenance falls due. Two days notice is rarely a problem on a narrowboat or barge. Let’s face it, they’re not built for Formula One speeds!
Quite beyond the fact that these days I blog for easyStorage and easyStorage Boxes, I have no hesitation in recommending their storage service. No-one I’ve spoken to has been less than helpful and empathetic – they’re an all round pretty amazing bunch, and will go out of their way to look after you and your belongings. For constant cruisers, with nowhere to put things except on top of the boat or on the stern, it would be a Godsend.
If you’re a boater reading this, it’s safe to assume that you are somewhere with internet coverage or (like me after many failed ‘Heath Robinson’ type attempts), have managed to set up an ingenious rig that gets wifi into several tons of steel box! You can therefore get a quote for storage (24/7) online or can always call 0333 344 1938 during normal working hours and stay grounded in nature in reality rather than the vagaries of the online World.
Either way, I hope it works well for you – and it costs nothing to ask!
easyStorage offers a wide range of storage options, from individual boxes up to multiple easyPods. We also provide packing materials to keep organised on your houseboat, during your move or just within your home including boxes of all sizes, bubble wrap/blankets/paper, tape and other accessories.