Narrowboat life

Documentary filmmaker Chloe White lives on a 30ft fibreglass narrowboat. “In a boat, you’re much more in the world.”

Tell us a bit about your narrowboat
My boyfriend and I have lived aboard our narrowboat, for a year and a half. It's cool because it has a separate bedroom with a sink and a huge living room and kitchen area where we can have little candlelit dinner parties and play Bananagrams.

How do you power your appliances on the boat?
Our water pump and radio runs off a car battery. We use battery-powered fairy lights to light the boat and portable charger to charge our phones.

So you don't own a TV?
We prefer living without the distraction of telly, Internet or laptops. We both have such technical jobs so it's nice to come back to a boat and not have to look at a screen. We're so much more productive now: I've been learning the guitar, we read more, go out more, talk more and we've invented some pretty unusual games to entertain ourselves.

Do you have a mooring?
No, we are continuous cruisers so we move every two weeks. I like going to Broadway Market and King's Cross best.

What attracted you to living on a narrowboat?
I like moving around, living off-grid, in a small space. I felt trapped when I was renting. Trapped into paying a ridiculous amount every month and trapped in a contract. Also, living in a house or a flat can sometimes hold you prisoner; in a boat you're much more in the world.

How are you at moving it?
For ages I just let my boyfriend take charge. I'm not very spatially aware so I assumed I'd be awful at it but then he went away for a while I had to do it on my own and now I'm pretty good. I actually think I'm better than him now, but don't tell him I said that.

What are the challenges of narrowboat life?
It can get very damp, which isn't fun, especially when all your clothes get wet. I worry a bit about security, but we've had no trouble with that so far. Also, we don't really use the shower on our boat because it's very small and uses up a lot of the water, so we shower at our studio, which can be a pain.

Is it cold in winter?
Last winter was a breeze but this winter has been much harder. Once our gas heater's on, though, the boat heats up really quickly. It's the mornings that are the hardest.

Would you ever make a documentary about waterway life?
I've thought about it but I wouldn't want everyone to know how great it is, otherwise everyone would be doing it and there'd be no room on the canal!

What do you miss most from your previous life?

Do you envisage yourself living on the boat for years to come?
Yes. Either that or a caravan. I feel claustrophobic living in one place for too long. I get bored.

What advice would you to give to anyone considering living on a narrowboat?
Just do it – don't think about it too much. Respect the waterways and other boaters. If we can live in harmony with each other and respect the rules, this can be a way of life that can continue for many years to come.

If your narrowboat could talk, what would it say to you?
Stop crashing me so much!

What's on your bedside table?
Some old batteries, three portable dehumidifiers, a battery-powered bedside light, a comic book and an old lemonade bottle.


Interview: Abigail Whyte

Last date edited: 5 March 2015

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