After a long process of pondering, I took the plunge, and put down a deposit to get a build slot for a new canal boat. That was scary but also felt very right. I’ll share some of my initial reflections here, with more to come as the process unfolds.
To make tricky decisions I always like to find or create a framework which can help me structure my thoughts, and highlight topics that are not being given sufficient attention.
For this case I came up with this framework of 4 aspects:
- human needs – what sort of life am I intending to live that will need to be supported by the boat
- material needs – there are lots of materials and systems involved in a canal boat, the steel hull, lots of wood, water everywhere, gas, electric, solar, heating, fire… etc. I need to understand the needs these materials and systems have so I can ensure I end up with something that makes sense…
- financial needs – as much as I’d like to money to go away and to live in a flowing gift economy, that’s not gunna get me a boat, so I need to get realistic here
- consent – this is the bit where I work out if it’s what I really want to do, or is just the least-bad option, or what someone else thinks I should do, so like a self-consent if that makes sense. I frame it as consent as I love this topic and like to see if I can fit the concept of consent into all areas of life
The build slot is booked in for August, to take around 8 weeks. So, expecting it to be in the water in October.
I’ve gone for a “sailaway”, which means it’ll have the shell, some insulation, a “subfloor” (which whatever flooring I come up with will go on top of), windows, engine, paint… but nothing else. Enough to sail away… hence the name. Not sure about the “sailing” bit, “driveaway”?
That means it’ll be on me to arrange having floors, walls, ceiling, electrics, solar, gas, heating, furniture, kitchen… lights… a lot of stuff. I am a computer programmer and never owned or maintained my own living spaces, so quite a lot to learn. I can fix my own bike at least 🔧
My initial thought was I’ll just get an empty boat, stand in it, then start thinking how I’d like the space to be. I thought it makes more sense to inhabit the space and feel the possibilities.
It doesn’t work like that though.
There are many implications for the build that I need to understand up front, or at least can greatly benefit from some up front thinking. It’s not like building up a campervan where you can select from a number of base models. The whole thing is custom.
So, knowing which sort of energy/heating/cooking systems I would like will change aspects of the layout. Gas canisters need to have gas lockers built into the shell that comply with regulations. Gas piping would also benefit from straight runs, so having gas appliances on the same side as the canisters would be preferable.
Window positions, shapes, and sizes, will obviously determine the possibilities for room layouts.
Everything will have an impact on how to arrange the ballast (heavy stuff needed to weight the boat down to sit right in the water).
Through many conversations I’ve understood more deeply now what is required of me, so out comes the masking tape making pretend “bathrooms” on the floor, so see if there is enough space in a given size… more on the layout topic to come in later posts.
Why blog about it?
I’m not sure yet! It’s nice to imagine the audience when writing, but I don’t have a clear idea there. Quite a few people ask me about it when I see them, but not sure if they will read this. Let’s see!
It could also be nice to receive comments/tips/ideas from other people online that have experience here, I know there are many online communities of boat people, but not connected to them at the moment.
I’ll also share my posts online via social media at bath.social/@nick and maybe some of those people will enjoy keeping up.
I welcome any comments with suggestions on topics of interest…
It’ll also be a nice record for myself.
Thanks for reading 🥰