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Presented by Sarah Meyer
Originally aired on 

Join to learn what it is really like to live on a boat in the heart of London.


Transcript (Beta)

Okay, hi everyone. Welcome to the first segment and hopefully there will be a few others in this on travel with Cloudflare.

In this realm that we're in right now we can't get to go experience new places so we'll get to bring out some quirky stories of some of the places that we're in and the office locations that we have and tell you about one of them.

So we're going to start with a quirky little story of traveling to London and living on a boat for a couple of years and we'll just go from there.

If you do have any questions, grateful if you can just pop them in and email them in and we can get them answered for you through there.

It would be much better if we could be doing this actually on the edge of a edge of the Thames where the dock actually is but thanks to these times it's not quite possible.

So let's get into it.

We'll be living on a boat in London. So in the heart of London there are a number of different both canals and marinas where people can actually live either full-time or part-time.

As you've been to London you know even the Thames goes through the center in the heart of the city where all the canals and old kind of docklands are.

A lot of this was used historically if we go back it was used in the industrial times where it would be the main mode of transportation before railroads were in place.

This whole canal network took over England and would get the materials from the north out to the seaports or from the north down into London as well.

So if you do get a chance just any part of pretty much any part of England you can go walk the different canals and see some of the old industrial warehouses that were on them.

Some have been redone, some are now still just there in the more state that they were a couple hundred years ago from there.

So what you'll see here is kind of just my journey of living on a boat in London.

All the pictures of this white little narrow boat are mine and the journey of it.

If at any point I am talking to someone or having a conversation the questions that always come up are why did you live on a boat first and foremost?

Kind of where was it? How did you actually do it?

And then once they find out that I left why did you actually leave and do you miss it?

So we'll just go through those in order from there.

So let's start with why. Why did I decide and why how did I convince my then boyfriend at the time that it'd be a really good idea to go live in a very small boat from there.

So I can kind of blame a couple of different things. While I'm in London now, forgive the accent, I clearly didn't grow up there.

I grew up in the states in landlocked Colorado and it's just right in the middle of the country although it has beautiful mountains and it has some mountain lakes.

It's just surrounded purely by farmland and mountains and to get to the closest actually really kind of ocean or coast is driving about.

The closest one is 18 hours to drive for it from there.

So grew up in a landlocked state. Based on that, when I went to university, I said I want to go live somewhere on the coast.

So I was lucky enough to go up to Seattle and live up there for a little bit.

When I was there, the university that I was at was really close to Lake Union.

Lake Union is known for all of its houseboats.

If you've seen the movie Sleepless in Seattle, it truly is based on a houseboat that is there.

And you just see and I would go kayaking around Lake Union and you'd see all these great houseboats, these people just enjoying their morning coffee on the deck or kids playing in the water and the life that it led just looked very idyllic for lack of better thing.

Then also at the same time, there was the idea of the tiny house movement was coming around.

This idea of just living in a very small place with only what you actually need.

Coming from the states, there is sometimes that need of just always having everything bigger is better.

And it was this idea of wanting to live in a very small space with only what you needed.

So it was just really appealing for it. Then lastly was London rental prices.

When I first came here, I was looking at how much I'd be paying for rent for that first year and just a place that was comfortable and allowed animals in because I brought my dog with me.

And finding out what I was going to have to pay for a year could almost buy me a boat.

So kind of just looking at all those things, it made sense to buy a boat.

Worse comes worse, I would throw away that money in rent anyway for that year.

So then it goes to kind of the idea of where.

Where do you actually live on a boat in London? So there's a few different options that are available for renting and doing moorings in the heart of London itself.

So first and foremost, there's the idea of residential mooring. That is probably the kind of best option available because you don't have to move your boat.

They can take places in locked marinas. They can take place on canal paths for it from there, but they are very hard to find.

So if you can find a residential mooring, you're doing well for it from there.

The other one is this idea of pedestrian moorings.

They are much easier to find, but you cannot live on them seven days a week.

So they are really nice idea. People would use them. They lived outside of the city and they needed to come in for two or three days a week.

They would live on the boat and they would use it there.

The other idea is cruising licenses and this is what a lot of people will use.

They are all around. You can kind of just go through the canals, but you can only stay in the same place for two weeks.

You do have to have a license for it, but you can just move. So sometimes it's great because you do have the ability to go live in different places as you want to, but you also are, I don't know, it's a little bit more interesting, I would say, because you don't actually know where you're going to be for the next two weeks.

You also don't have simple things of having an address. So if you want to have a package delivered to you, you can't actually have the package delivered to you because there's no physical place.

So when we started to look, it was let's look at a place that we can find ideally a residential mooring.

It gave us the chance to have a physical address because I did want to be able to get posts sent to me and have a place where I could actually say I lived.

Also, it gave the option to have simple things like Internet.

This wasn't going to be a place that we wanted to be completely living off the land.

We were still living in the middle of London.

We did still want to be able to have Internet from there. And for me, one of the biggest other things was security.

So actually finding a place with a residential mooring and ideally in a marina because it was long for it.

So we were lucky enough that was our first choice to find the residential mooring of the boat there.

Kind of last resort, we're like, yeah, we'll do the cruising license and worst comes to worst.

Then we will continue to put your name on a list because you can do that.

There's waiting lists to get into some of the residential moorings, but it's about five to seven years is I think most of the list for it from there.

So we were lucky to actually find a residential mooring in a locked marina in the center of London.

This is in South Dock Marina, where we were.

It's just off the Thames, right across from Canary Wharf and about halfway between London Bridge and Greenwich.

So kind of just right on the spin of the marina.

What we did is actually kind of just a small little speedboat that happened to have residential mooring on it and then bought that and then bought another boat up north where and then brought it down.

As we talked about, it gave us that security.

It's actually locked on both ends. Gave us a physical address, which is still was actually challenging when you have to prove your address, but it gave us actually a physical address and we could get posts delivered there.

We didn't have to move every week. Simple things of shore power. So we could actually have normal power.

We could charge our phones. We could charge our computers.

We could have like a tea kettle to make tea and we could get Internet.

So that was kind of some of the joys for it. Also gave us a really good and interesting sense of community.

That was probably one of the best things that we found by having this residential mooring in this specific marina is all the boats around you are also say there.

So you start to truly get to know your neighbors in a different way.

Then it talks about how. This is where we'll probably spend a little bit more time on is how do you actually live on a boat in London?

So we talked about finding that mooring. So we did buy it. So we found it by buying a speedboat.

It was just this little random speedboat that I think was on page 16 of a site called Apollo Duck.

Apollo Duck is one of the main places that you can get kind of is posting of used boats on it.

I kept searching. Okay, there has to be something here in London.

I just started to look at every single boat available in London and came across this random one that had a residential mooring to it.

Okay, interesting. As we found out, the engine actually didn't work on it. So it wasn't really a functional boat.

It's more a floating bathtub. But once we got the floating bathtub, it did come with that mooring.

We were then able to swap the boat that was physically on the mooring to one that we could actually live on.

So then talking about the ones that you can actually find a boat. So then once we had the mooring, we talked to the marina to see basically how big of a boat we could get.

We both like this idea of getting a narrowboat. They're more the traditional boats that are found on the canal network of England.

They are very small.

They're only about seven feet wide, but they can be very long. So it was trying to find a narrowboat.

Also for the marina's sake, while we could swap the mooring to a different boat, it did need to make sure that the boat could actually fit inside the marina.

So we did have to talk with them and have some limitations on the size and type of boat that we could actually bring in.

So once we turned our attention now to finding the boat, looking at ones in London proper were just more expensive, just because London seems to be more expensive.

So then we basically looked at every area outside of London to actually find the boat, and it was kind of just that daily morning with coffee, starting to look to see what were the new postings.

We found this lovely little green boat outside of Manchester and went to go look at it.

Found that it actually met a lot of our needs. It was in pretty good shape, but still gave the opportunity to make it our own and do some updating for it.

But the steel, which is the most important thing, was actually in good shape, because steel and water don't think go together, but they actually do.

So we found the boat.

Once the sale was complete, we had two different options to getting it down to London.

So the first option is actually sailing the canal network.

So you can get from where it was just north of Manchester down into London. It would take though about three weeks.

If we had the time and the skill, I think it actually would have been interesting to do.

So if you're looking at a holiday idea, you can go on the canal network of England and see some beautiful countryside.

One of the other big challenges of going on the canal network though, is there's all these series of locks.

Because the terrain does kind of go up and down a little bit, you need to be able to get the boats up and down that terrain as well.

So they have created this entire series of locks where it will just, you put the boat in and then you need to either raise or lower the water level to meet where it's going to from there.

And I think between where it was and where we needed to get to was about 150 or 200 locks, which would be interesting and it would be a really good challenge, but one that we maybe didn't quite want to do.

So we went the cheetah route, put it on the back of a lorry, or for those of us who had no clue what that word actually meant before we moved to England, put it on the back of a semi-truck and just brought it down on the back of a truck.

So I couldn't find it and I was really sad, but I do have a picture somewhere of the boat just on the back of a truck being brought down into London.

So once it was there, then we lifted it off the boat and or off of the truck and put it into the marina.

So that is the boat just being lifted off of the truck.

It is one of those that you, it's very odd to see your home just flying in the air, but there you go.

Once it actually was put down into the water and before we actually did, we did blacken it, which you can see the bottom part of the boat is black.

That's just retreating the steel and making it be able to survive on water for the next about three to five years.

And that little silver thing on the very bottom is an anode and it just allows, it kind of takes the main brunt of what we'll eat against the boat, should be eating that anode first.

So once it was dropped into the water, we went about updating it.

For us, we wanted to really make a place that seemed like a home for us.

It was in good shape, but we wanted to make it ours. So we tried to embrace the 80s as much as we could, but also start to modernize it from there.

That was a lot of removing elements first and foremost, seeing what was behind some of the walls and then starting to move it from there.

So it was starting to joke about being project de-doiling.

So a lot of everything that you saw, we actually started to take out.

So let's kind of talk about what that was. So these are some of the photos kind of pre-project or kind of in the middle of the project, I should say.

So once we, like if we start with the one on the left, that was what became our bedroom area.

We got in there and there were two different benches on each side of it.

So that whole area could be a bed, which is fine if you're going to be living on there, I think for travel sake, but for us just purely wanting a way to get in and out of the boat easily.

And we did have our dog with us there. We found that the back stairs were just much easier to get in and out.

So we put the back of the boat towards the dock so we could get in and out of that, which then means we wanted to have an easy passageway through there.

We also, because there wasn't much storage, we needed to have our closets back there.

So we decided to take out one of the benches and put in two gym lockers that became our closets.

And in doing that though, you also have the discoveries of living on a boat and we found a lot of the floor was rotten.

So that there is us kind of updating the bedroom. We had to put in a whole bunch of new floor and start to figure out a way to make a sliding bed onto it from there.

We also went about kind of updating the kitchen. While the kitchen was fine, it was a little bit dark.

So we wanted to update it in a way that would be a little bit brighter and just kind of have it be easier to clean in some ways.

The tile that was on there before is a little bit odd. And actually when we took off the tile, we found that there's four layers, three or four layers of tile in different areas on there.

Kind of even the boat adjusted its weight when we took it all off from there.

So we went about updating the bathroom and really updating the whole.

The farthest picture on the right-hand side is the kitchen area and living room, where again we just lifted up the floor.

As soon as we removed the bench that was in there before, we found that the wood floor that was nice and lovely didn't actually go through the whole thing.

So we found what was easiest is just actually to remove all the flooring.

Again, then we could check to see if there was any water damage or any of the ones that we needed to replace.

Found that there was also some carpet underneath there.

So we removed the carpet, removed the flooring that was there and gave us a really good blank site.

Then this is kind of what it looks like afterwards. So for us, it was really important to do just really bright and light because we were living in it full time.

It wasn't something that we wanted to have be very dark. We wanted it to be lighter and brighter and also feel like us.

So did cork flooring. So just one small little tidbit if you are looking for something that is pretty durable but also gives insulation and easy to install, cork was our way to go about it.

It's amazing how you can get it delivered in about two days if you need to.

White on the walls everywhere.

We kept the original wood onto the ceilings, making the fireplace our own and then really also updating the colors outside of the boat.

The outside of the boat, painting it white was important because in the summer, if you do have it be the green color, it absorbs all of the heat and the warmth of it.

If it's white, it does reflect it.

Boats, what we found at least, very much are kind of just like a giant car.

So if you think of how warm a car can get in the summer time if it's in the sun, it was very similar to being in the boat.

Because we needed to leave the dog in there sometimes when we weren't there, we wanted to make it as cool as possible.

To the point actually after having a couple days like London is experiencing now, where it's in the mid 30s, we were actually going to install an air conditioning unit.

So if you need to, you can install an air conditioning unit into the boat as well.

Besides that, we also looked at kind of figuring out every little spot that we could have in the boat.

We thought about everything basically that we're putting in there and finding a spot for it.

So thinking of where we could have a table, which you can see in the middle picture, a place to actually sit and relax, a place for the TV, a place for all of our shoes, a place for all of ours, all the materials that we actually needed it to be.

So going back on that one for a moment, how we even did it in the bedroom area as well.

So as you saw, we go back to here, you can see on that far left hand picture, we had removed a lot of the materials and we needed to put in a closet.

For us, we tried to also find materials that could be just installed easily.

So our closet became gym lockers.

So if you go to the gym and you see those simple lockers that are about a foot wide, about six feet tall, but you think about, oh that's, I can use that for my gym locker, keep some stuff in there for a little bit.

That actually became our closet.

If you ever need to find hangers that fit in there, kids hangers actually work really well.

So we had two, each had a gym locker and that became our closet from there.

But that is, if you're ever thinking about living in a small space, one word of advice is almost list out as much as possible, everything that you think you need on a daily basis and think about where you're going to put it in.

Because as you're planning the spaces, it just makes it easier and then you know, this will go here, this will go here.

So then you can not have any surprises of a really large thing because there's no space that you can just stuff stuff into.

You don't have that as an option.

So now it comes to kind of why do we leave? So after living on a boat in London, we did it for four years and it was absolutely brilliant.

But it came to a time that we were ready to be in something else, being actually be on land and being in to a flat.

So some of the quirks of it is a lot of the heating for the boats, for us at least, was done by a gas bottle.

So let's say you're getting ready to have a hot shower.

You're halfway through and you all of a sudden hear the sound.

It's the gas, it's our hot water heater just completely turning off and it was like, okay, oh great, that means we no longer have any hot water.

So you're in the middle of taking a nice hot shower or cooking dinner and your hot water completely goes away, which is not ideal, especially if it's December and gray and rainy outside.

Equally, then it's simple things of actually then so you've now had that hopefully hot shower most of the time.

Sometimes just getting even simple water out of the boat.

Because narrowboats are pretty light, you have to ballast them separately.

So if you go about doing the ballast or the balancing out of it, if let's say there's too much weight on one side or maybe one of the tanks is a little bit fuller, then you have to go about and kind of be readjusting it.

At certain times for us, if one of the tanks was full, we couldn't actually get the water out of the shower until someone went stood on the side of the boat.

So there's just some quirks that you got used to, but it was also something that at times became slightly annoying and you wanted to just change it from there.

We're ready to do laundry without using a garden hose.

So the picture that you have on the lower part of the screen is what we did for our laundry.

So it's just a good old-fashioned twin tub.

You can fit about two towels in there before it is too full. You fill it up once with water.

You let it do this basic glorified salad spinner for about 15 minutes.

Then you empty the water. Then you have to rinse it because it can't rinse itself.

Then you fill more water into it. Ideally hot water or let's be honest, most of the time we just gave up and started to use cold water.

Put it on its lovely 10-minute cycle again to spin and then you get some soaking wet clothes.

So then once you have these soaking wet clothes that are clean enough, then you put it onto the other side of it, which just spins it.

Just basically for a good five minutes just really spins the clothes trying to get as much water out of it from there.

Once it's that, then you have to try to find a place to actually dry the clothes.

Drying the clothes in a very small space is interesting. Once you go about drying the clothes, you just have them basically strewn all over the boat and hope you don't do too much laundry at the same time.

It was really a joy when we moved into a place and actually had a dryer for it from there.

I was talking about the closet before.

As you can see here, here was our lovely gym locker. It worked.

We made it work. The idea of the capsule wardrobe really came into effect, not by trend but by necessity for it.

Living on a boat there, we were just ready to have slightly more space.

Didn't want to have to limit ourselves to two pairs of shoes and maybe four t-shirts and a couple pairs of jeans.

We just wanted to have a little bit more space.

Then it was just the simple things. The narrow boats themselves are only about six feet tall, maybe six two at the middle of them.

Being sports avid, like just watching sporting games and being excited and cheering for your teams, you have to remind yourself not to jump up because if you do, you'll hit your head on the boat or you can't lift your arms above your head because again, you'll hit the top of the boat.

There's many times that we banged our heads on top of the boat.

It's just some of these simple things that went, yeah, okay.

I think we're ready to have that little bit more space to move on to land from there.

It wasn't without a lot of thoughts. We did it for about four years and over that time, we did a lot of the main updating at the beginning of it.

Then every year, there's constantly things to be doing, constantly repairs that need to be done on the boat.

Simply painting the outside and as we first saw as the boat was lifted out and you saw the underside of the boat, we had to do that again about every two to three years.

You just want to make sure that the boat is well taken care of.

Water can slide to like if it rains, sometimes water would just go.

Where did that come from? Figuring out where a leak is and patching it from there.

Painting the outside of boat again, just making sure that it's nice and secure, the top part, so that white layer of it.

There's always stuff that needs to be done on the boat from there.

Then once we were ready to go, we did move on land and now been here for a couple years and it's looking about what did we actually miss on the time.

There were a number of things that we did actually miss from it.

Why we actually did it in the first place, going back to seeing those people in Seattle on their boats and just the joy of sitting there and having a morning coffee and seeing the swans swim by or talking to your neighbors.

You do actually almost talk to all of your neighbors as you're leaving because you pass all their boats.

Being able to go to the flower shop and have these beautiful gardens on your roof.

That ideal image of what we were looking for when we first decided to do it was actually true.

We really enjoyed being able to experience living on a boat because it is the community, the aspect and the life of living on a boat is actually really special.

I do say if you get the chance to it, absolutely go about living on a boat.

It is a really good and unique way to experience life from there.

Then if we kind of look at a couple of the other things of it, it was the local community and beyond just the marina.

Where this particular marina was and what seems to be a trend as we experience other marinas and kind of other canals throughout England is that the pubs that happen beyond the canals are really special.

There's something about the pubs and bringing people together on the water that is just different.

Travel with Cloudflowers, if you do get a chance to go experience some of the pubs that are on the canals, definitely do, regardless if they're in London or if they're outside of the city.

So having a pub that you can walk into and they actually know your name and to the point that they actually even know your order, really sad, but it's true, is a really good thing to be doing.

Then it is that idea that I kind of talked about it before, but that true sense of community.

We could actually walk down the platoon, so where the marina is and where the boats are, you could walk down the platoon and if you needed like a cup of sugar or something like that, you could actually go ask for a cup of sugar and probably only take two or three boats and you would get it.

Sometimes when we ran out of the propane or the gas to actually do our hot water, which I was talking about earlier, you could usually call someone and go, give me a little spare tank, can we use it for a day until we get ours delivered and someone would be able to do that for you.

Or just a simple spontaneous barbecue.

So there is in the particular place that we were, there's a community area where you can store some bikes and where the boat work would actually be doing if you did need to lift it out of the water and have the work done to it.

There was some more kind of community areas for there and you could go and have a barbecue there.

You'd be walking by and again, some neighbors would just start to have a barbecue and it would be a good way to go about and just get to know your neighbors.

So there was, compared to now being back on land, there's a really good sense of balance and community that you don't find just in apartment flats.

I mean, now I go in the elevator and we get to know some people. We've been here long enough or especially if someone maybe has a dog or something, you'll start to have that conversation.

But it's not the same as if you were going to walk down the pontoon and have something there with it.

So a couple other things.

So kind of to wrap up and to be talking about kind of travel with Cloudflare and particularly London.

If you did have any questions, make sure to pop them in and email them in so we can answer them.

But in the last just minute or two, kind of wrapping up.

So if you get a chance to come to England, absolutely go experience walking around the canals.

There's a really good route if you want to get from around London.

So you can start in East London in a place that's called Blind Pass Marina.

Start to see some of the boats there and then you can walk. It's about a 10 mile walk through the canal network going by Broadway Market.

Especially go on a Saturday, pick up some great French and lunch and items from there.

Continue on, you will go by Camden Market. So again, you can pick up some interesting food nibbles on or go see some of the crafts that are going on in Camden Market.

Continue on and go into kind of King's Cross and some of the regeneration redevelopment that's happened around King's Cross and going through Regent's Park and going and seeing the zoo.

Yes, sometimes you can see some of the animals as you're walking by along the canal path and in this little place that's called Little Venice.

Seeing the canal networks and seeing Little Venice is a place where there's so many different of these same types of narrow boats that are all just parked there and you can see a different type of canal and boat living from there.

So travel tip number one, next time you come to England, make sure to go walk around a canal path.

If you're coming to London, do that walk between Limehouse Marina and Little Venice.

Prepare for about a 10 mile walk but it's a really good way to spend an afternoon.

There's good pubs at the other end if you want to pop in for a pint afterwards as well.

Two is if you get a chance to actually rent one and live on a boat for a little bit.

It's a unique thing to do and you should highly recommend it but just be prepared that you might be, it might not be as easy as you originally expected it to be.

And number three is just anywhere you are, just make sure to go come see some of the quirky ways that people live and go experience them from there.

So hope you had a little bit of fun, traveled with us through London and life on a boat here.

Enjoy the next session that comes up.