Have the lockdowns got you singing the blues? An eco friendly houseboat may be just the solution you need!
By Chere Di Boscio
Coronavirus quarantines have done much physical, economic and psychological damage to billions.
As a result of being stuck inside, often in tiny apartments in full isolation without the company of friends, family or even pets, many have become depressed and even suicidal. Indeed, it’s a sad fact that drug and alcohol abuse, family violence and suicides have all risen astronomically since the lockdowns began.
But there is good news. There are solutions. And one of those solutions is to move on to a houseboat.
Escape Lockdowns In An Eco Friendly Houseboat
There are many benefits to living on one. For example:
- With the rocking of the boat and the sound of the rain on the rooftop, you’ll sleep like a baby
- No more grass cutting or driveway shovelling, ever!
- The marina atmosphere and neighbourly camaraderie can’t be beat
- With prices starting at around $50k, they’re cheaper than houses
- You’ll live more sustainably, as these are basically tiny homes on water. Less space to furnish, heat and clean!
- Being out in the open allows you good opportunities if you’re green fingered to forage or grow your own food on the roof.
- No need to buy; you can rent a boat before making a commitment
- They’re a perfect living solution for flood-prone areas. You’ll welcome the rains!
- You’ll be surrounded by nature every day
And of course the best part is: you are free! You can move around whenever you like, to wherever you like. No more being stuck inside four walls, often surrounded by neighbours on all sides (if you live in an apartment). If your neighbours are noisy or bothersome, just move. Bored with your location? Try a new one!
A Very Special Example
One great example of houseboat living is expressed by Owain and Rosie Harris. This couple lived on a houseboat (which is pictured below) for eight years, aiming to save up to buy a house closer to their families in the insanely expensive central London property market.
The Harris’ boat is particularly sustainable as its exterior was constructed from Corten Weathering Steel. This never requires painting, which is great because marine paints are extremely hazardous toxic substances, and should be avoided whenever possible.
That being said, boat life is far more environmentally friendly overall than living in bricks and mortar. Boats up any land, use a much smaller space, and use much less energy to heat up and keep warm.
The Harrises burn recycled wood pellets from local joineries for their energy, and as Owen says: “We have a closer relationship and awareness of nature and our immediate environment as we meander through.” He continues: “We grew up in the country and by the sea, and living on a boat in London gives a taste of rural life in a big city. Coming home is always a delight, and the contrast in landscapes is striking and keeps every day exciting – one minute we can be in the sticks and the next surrounded towering skyscrapers.”
When you live on a houseboat, you’re much more aware of the wildlife and waterways that surround you, and leads to a heightened sense of environmental awareness.
Boaters need to be conscious of their surroundings, and measures need to be taken to stop pollution of the waterways. All soaps and detergents need to be eco friendly, and if you’re wondering how toilets work, it’s usually through a composting system, so the waste can be used as fertiliser when broken down.
Getting rid of garbage and recycling becomes more challenging, which motivates those who live on houseboats to be more conscious of any waste they are producing. A zero waste lifestyle is best. In other words, you should try to:
- Use biodegradable soaps and shampoos that come in bar form instead of bottles
- Shop for food in bulk stores that allow you to refill glass jars, to reduce packaging waste
- Swap typically disposable items like plastic razors, cotton balls and paper towels for permanent goods like steel razors, re-usable hemp pads and cotton cloths.
- Cook at home more often instead of ordering takeaways
In addition, having to fill up your own water tank makes you very aware of how much water you’re using and will motivate your to keep long showers to a minimum. Having to do laundry at the laundromat (or wash by hand) will make you wash only what’s really necessary, as opposed to tossing clothes in the machine after one or two wears.
And of course, using a generator for electricity and having occasionally less access to wifi means you’re less likely to spend hours and hours in front of a screen.
The Pros And Cons Of Living On A Boat
The Harrises furnished their houseboat entirely with recycled furniture, and ensured their boat was well insulated and double glazed. All of the wood they used in the fitout was FSC certified, and the floor was made of reclaimed scaffolding boards.
But it should be noted that not all houseboats are so green, or as modest, as theirs is.
There are houseboats as big as, well, regular houses – and they can come decked out in the most modern furnishings and finishings imaginable. The cost of such homes, such as the one pictured below, can go into the millions.
There are also a few other downsides to living on an eco friendly houseboat that should be kept in mind:
- A boat is much more exposed to the elements and susceptible to damage. Regular maintenance is essential and can be costly
- Boats are more at risk than other dwellings to vandalism and theft. You will need a good insurance policy, but that being said, some marinas and boatyards often grant you extra protection, and may even have CCTV and security personnel on-site
- Some practicalities can be more difficult, such as finding access to a local doctor, supermarket or internet access
The truth is, no living space is perfect. A tiny home means feeling cramped; living in a mansion means more maintenance and expenses. Having a garden means more work in both summer and winter; having no garden means a lack of contact with nature. Living in an eco friendly houseboat means a cleaner, greener lifestyle, but it also means being more exposed to the elements and theft.
But if you’re feeling trapped in a tiny city apartment – especially after lockdowns – it may just be the perfect solution for you!