January 2020 marks one year of living full time on our narrowboat. We bought Toby in September 2019, spent 3 months bringing up to our home city and clearing him out ready for our habitation. And so it wasn’t until January of 2019 that we had spent a full month aboard.
In that year we’ve learnt so much about narrowboat life and about living on the waterways and feel blessed to have taken this journey so far. It’s not all been great, there’s been times when we didn’t know what to do, we wondered if we’d made a mistake sinking all of our savings into a boat that needs plenty of love and attention, we loved and then lost a wonderful cat while aboard and have spent countless hours trying to make Toby the best home for us possible.
One thing we have learnt from this year is that it’s seldom easy to live on a narrowboat; having to be constantly aware of your surroundings, the water levels both on and off the boat, keeping a list of planned maintenance and balancing the costs of doing so means that narrowboat living is not as easy as some make out. Having said that, it is a lifestyle that is fun, rewarding, relaxing and calming. This year has been at it’s best blissful and at it’s worst a nice challenge and we’re very much looking forward to what next year brings.
January 2020 also saw the first month where I (Matt) had lived aboard solo. Olivia took the month off to go travelling around the Philippines, her solo adventure after I’d taken December 2018 to travel alone for a month myself. I have to say, although I missed her being around of course, living alone on a 40ft narrowboat is far easier than living on here with Olivia. She has a way of making 3 times as much mess than the normal human being and being able to keep on top of the mess around the boat made it a far more enjoyable place to live than when I have to do so amongst her things.
This month alone also meant I was able to set up our narrowboat cinema and connect it to my Nintendo Switch and indulge in one of my true hobbies, board game apps! (I even set up a website for exactly that this month over at 8bitmeeple.com/). Normally Olivia asks me to take this down so she can go to bed however while the cat’s away the mice will play, and so I did! (You can read about this cinema set up in our article here.)
The final thing we’ve learnt from our first year aboard is that for boaters, it really is a year of two halves. The summer months are all go with a mix of cruising and maintenance work being done in earnest, prepping yourselves to survive the winter wherever you end up mooring. And the winter months is all about surviving, be it harsh weather, unforseen boat leaks, canal closures or struggles with keeping your fire lit. It gets quiet on the towpath and quiet in the marinas as boaters seem to hibernate and plan for what will always be a busy summer to follow.