When we finally decided we were definitely going to go for the canal life I had some queries and concerns. As a lot of these have also been asked by friends and relatives I thought I’d note them down.
How Can You Safely Raise A Baby On A Boat?
This is a question I got asked a lot. Concerns raised were along the lines of: Won’t she fall in?, Aren’t you worried for her safety?, What will you do for doctor’s appointments? Where will she go to school? Oh and the list goes on…
What I like to say in answer to that is..ok, what about if you lived in a non-ground floor flat and she fell off the balcony? What if she fell down the stairs? There will always be risks with any home and as long as you safe guard and educate the child accordingly, I really don’t see how she can’t live a happy, safe and fulfilling childhood.
With regards to her doctors appointments etc, this has been a consideration for us for sure. In the early days after Jemima was born, the midwives came to the boat, as we were still at a marina at that point. They seemed to find it quite novel! The health visitors have also been very flexible with us and have been more than happy for us to visit them, as opposed to them coming to us. Of course, this sometimes means a bit of a drive but we have never missed an appointment.
We are not in a position yet to decide on her schooling. We are making the most of the adventure and freedom that constant cruising brings, but both of us agree that by the time she gets to school age we would like to be in a fixed location.
What Do You Do About the Toilet?
This may seem trivial, but it is a real and very legitimate question, and one I asked myself. I never went camping on holiday as a child and with the exception of one caravanning holiday with an ex boyfriend a few years back, my skills in the camping area are pretty poor. I did however manage an entire Glastonbury Festival using the most interesting toilet conditions I had ever witnessed, so perhaps I should have given myself more credit!
The toilets on canal boats fall into 2 categories; Elsan Toilets – where you essentially ‘go’ into toilet that has a cartridge at the bottom of it which eventually fills up and needs to be disposed of, and Pump Out Toilets – where you have a full flushing toilet which needs to be pumped out at set locations along the canal network. Ours is an Elsan toilet, which admittedly did take some getting used to as I am a bit fussy about toilets. Ed then takes it to the disposal point and get rid of it all, which can’t be nice but I must admit to refusing to do it. The disposal points are more abundant for the Elsan toilets than that of the Pump Out ones and we have yet to be caught out, but it is certainly the biggest change I have had to get used to. You can imagine my delight when I go to a pub or go to stay at my parents’ house – flushing toilet – woooo!
What About WiFi?
I know it may sound a bit daft, but I will be real here; something I didn’t feel I would be happy without is Netflix. And BBC IPlayer. Especially since I was preparing to be up at all hours of the night with Jemima so needed some form of entertainment. So Wifi was a condition with which I hit Ed very early on. So he set to work and found us a brilliant solution. We have a mobile Wi-fi router that accepts a mobile SIM card. It is designed for vehicles and plugs into a 12V socket (cigar lighter type). It has an external antenna to get better mobile coverage and allows up to ten devices to share that data over Wi-fi. It’s a bit like a personal hotspot on steroids.
Does It Get Cold On The Boat?
One big priority for us was heating. Not only are we both pretty grumpy when cold, but we had a little one on the way who absolutely needed warmth on a daily basis. Most canal boats are heated by a solid-fuel burner, which you can imagine would be lovely in the winter when you have it going but isn’t that sustainable all year round. So we wanted one that also had some form of central heating. Crystal Clear has diesel powered central heating and this has been indispensable for us and we very rarely get cold. Mind you, we have only been on the boat since March so come winter we will have the real test! Ed has written a bit about heating here:
Did You Have To Downsize Your Possessions Much?
Yes. The answer is yes. Especially since a baby comes with SO. MUCH. STUFF. However I completely embraced it. Its amazing how much stuff you accumulate over time (only a year of living with Ed in my case) and how much of that stuff you really don’t need or rarely use. So we promised ourselves to be brutal. We got our best Marie Kondo hats on and said if the item doesn’t bring us joy, thank it and let it go . Not really, but we did force ourselves to really look at what we used and didn’t use. Sure, we do have a storage facility for things that we feel we may want or need as and when we may move back into a house, but mostly it was a case of love it or lose it.
I personally also took the opportunity to do something I have wanted to do for a long time; create a capsule wardrobe. this is when you have as small number of (hopefully high quality) classic items that work together to form many outfits that do not age with fashion changes. I had looked into this many times and never had the courage to throw away all my cheap clothes that I never wore ‘just in case’, but it was now forced into it and wow how liberating! I still had to keep some of my old clothes (namely all my maternity wear) but once I no longer need to wear these larger clothes, I will look upon my simple, tidy, stylish wardrobe with pride.
What about the cat? And the dog?
I will touch on this properly in another post, but this has been the biggest surprise (and also, the biggest challenge) of all. But not because of the boat per se.
Our cat, Mittens is a 10 year old black and white moggy with a lot of sass and a bit of a temper sometimes. She is very loving to us but can be a bit stand-offish with other people. She has lived with me for her whole life in a whole range of situations; house cat kept in a 14th storey flat, a wanderer of the countryside and now on a boat. The biggest surprise of this whole experience is just how well she has adapted. Some say that cats get attached to their surroundings, not their owners and this is so untrue for her. She is happy as long as she is with me. Depending on our location, sometimes I let her off the boat and sometimes I don’t. She seems content enough with this and never roams far at all. She has really taken to the boat lifestyle and loves to sit out on the front deck surveying the world. Many many canal boaters have cats as they just seem to fit.
Loki, our 6 year old Miniature Schnauzer is in fact the bigger challenge, despite the fact that I didn’t he would be! However it isn’t the boat that has been the issue. It is adapting to Jemima which has been, and still is, a problem. When we first moved onto the boat he was fine – loved going out 3 times a day for his walks and although he worried about certain little noises (he can bear quite a nervous little thing sometimes) he was happy. It was when Jemima came along that he really struggled. It is something that we are still working on, more to come there.
The list of questions we have had is much longer than this, but hopefully this at least gives some perspective on our new lives and breaks some misconceptions about our little life onboard.