If you were following this blog before but you’re not interested in boats, I apologize for the lengthy discussion of recent posts. I consider it part of my lifestyle, just like learning to sleep rough, cycle touring, and the rest. Boating will just be another way of doing the same thing – being free to travel and sleep wherever I want, with a few simple possessions, along the most enchanting waterways and scenic coastlines that adorn this vast planet.
Living on a boat offers several advantages over cycle touring such as having a guaranteed warm, comfortable place to sleep every night, the ability to carry more cooking equipment, water and food supplies, and many others – see my boat page for the reasons why I want to live on a boat.
As stated in my first ever post, it was not my intention that this blog should be ‘followed’ by people checking up regularly, although I do welcome it, I started it because it does me good to clarify my thoughts in writing, and because I thought some of what I write might end up being useful to others. I don’t want to feel forced to write about the same subject every week just to keep a few subscribers entertained, I’m more interested in creating a permanent resource for anyone else who seriously wants to try a different way of life.
So I felt free to write about boats for a whole month, and if you’ve seen the first ‘I Dream of Boats’ post you’ll appreciate that I start from the same place as countless other young people – stuck between a rock and a hard place. That is, stuck between paying rent and saving up to buy a property, and frustrated that life has to revolve around chasing money and polluting the environment. So I naturally looked at barges and narrow boats on the river, decided they weren’t good enough, and the story goes from there…
After countless hours of thought and research I concluded that my ideal home could be a Paradox microcruiser designed by Matt Layden. At only 13’10″ long it’s very small but plenty big enough for me since I’ve learned to live a simple life. There are no boats available, only design plans so I’ll have to build it myself. Many amateurs have built a Paradox microcruiser all over the world – this fine example is called Faith built in the UK by Bill Serjeant:
I thought about separating my posts about boating because some of the posts are purely about boat design and might not appeal to a person interested in cycle touring. I’ve noticed that some people keep several blogs about different subject areas. However my brain is too small for that and I can only do one thing at a time. Besides I feel that boat design is part of my voyage of discovery in my search for a healthy life style that has minimal impact on my wallet and the environment.
So you can expect a post or two about boats now and then, I write as and when I feel to.
When will I get a boat?
Not for a long time. Right now I have nothing except a bike and a bag, and I like it that way. I’m still in the process of simplifying and purifying my life, which includes rooting out material things, unnecessary responsibilities and commitments, unhelpful relationships and so on and so forth. The last thing I need right now is a boat. That would be one massive material thing that only moves at four miles per hour, and I fear that if I invest a lot of time building it I might become attached to it, which would be kicking myself in the foot as far as I’m concerned. When the time is right, I might get a boat.
So why think about it so much now? I obsess over it. I don’t know why, but it seems I’m not alone – a look around the Internet will reveal a large number of men who can’t stop discussing boats, even if they don’t even have one. That fact is boat design presents a lot of problems with conflicting design criteria, problem solving is good fun, and for every problem there are always many solutions. For example, you can seat six people around a dinner table in 720 different ways. And every solution throws up several problems.
People spend thirty years paying off a mortgage on their house. My boat could be my home for the rest of my life, so I think it’s well worth investing a lot of thought and effort. Some people have urged me to take a short cut, to just get on with it and buy one or build an available design. I disagree, strongly. It takes a lot of energy, natural resources, time, effort and money to refurbish an old boat let alone to build a new one. By thinking slowly and carefully now, until I’m absolutely sure of the boat that is right for me I’ll save so much headache when push comes to shove.
The same people would argue that experiencing living on any boat will give me a much more realistic idea of what makes a good live-aboard. I do agree with this and I would do it if I had a thousand years on this Earth. However right now I’m learning something much more important which is to live with nothing at all, and I feel that the longer I experience homelessness the more luxurious any boat will seem when I finally live aboard. Being homeless for a year has had a serious impact on the size of boat that I would consider an ideal home.
Whenever I go cycling or walking in the Thames Valley I inevitably end up following a canal or river, where I inevitably dream of what it would be like to leisurely drift down it in my future floating home. There are so many charming waterways around here that I sometimes feel they’re torturing me because I don’t have a boat! But the grass is always greener on the other side. I’m sure that if I moved onto a boat now, it would only be a few years before I begin to wonder – what if? What if I’d cycled further, slept rough in other cities, learned to travel even faster and lighter and really felt at home in the great outdoors?
Back on Road
So here I am, the Cycle Touring Piano Tuner ready for some more adventure, about fifty pianos await my tender loving care.
I haven’t had to sleep rough at all recently, because of the kind lady who lent me her house for a month while she went on holiday. Then when the rains came I hid at my parents house for a couple of weeks. And this week I’ve spent nights on an office floor, a sofa, and tucked up behind a sports centre:
My Alpkit Hunka bivvy bag has performed admirably over the last year and given me confidence to sleep in places where I would normally fear getting all damp and soggy. However it’s not ‘submergably’ waterproof, and although this night it wasn’t raining the muddy gravel was soaked and my pillow became a little damp on the underside, but not enough to affect my body. I slept well and dried it in just a few minutes later that day.
It was so convenient to wake up and literally just walk around the building into the sports centre and have a swim and a hot shower.
I actually feel quite relieved to be back out on the streets again. Perhaps I’m getting used to this homelessness lark. I think it’s mostly because I was not active enough when I had the house to myself for a month. Sure I took a week out to walk from Oxford to Stroud, but the rest of the time I just sat on the sofa and did a lot of reading and writing. I also drank a lot of tea:
I didn’t feel compelled to go out to the swimming pool or sports centre because I could have a hot shower in the house whenever I wanted. I didn’t even cycle much because I stopped working and didn’t visit many friends. I had a sheltered space all to myself so I just wanted to relax there. Besides it was my first real time off in a whole year. Better to be working or visiting friends when I actually benefit from the shelter provided by their buildings.
And so life goes on. When I look at the year ahead I can’t imagine how I’ll get through it. But looking at the year behind me I’m amazed how there was always a place to sleep, to shower, and I got through it quite comfortably and rather enjoyed it. Soon it will be Summer…