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Tales from the Riverbank – Pt 4

So, would a boat make a good bug out location? I really can’t answer that as there are so many variables. I absolutely loved living on my boat as an affordable home and I would certainly recommend anyone thinking of such a lifestyle to give it a try. However it is just that, a lifestyle, with many compromises that must be made to make it work.

Probably the biggest drawback to a prepping lifestyle on board is the lack of storage space. Most boats have lots of clever storage but if you add up everything you need to take with you this might not be enough. It really is going to depend on what you think is necessary to take with you in the first place and what you think you might need to survive whatever disaster you’re worried about. For instance, I sat down a while ago and wrote down the things I would really hate to be without for everyday life. The list was surprisingly short but that’s probably because I’m not really interested in many of the “essentials” of modern day life. So I’d have most of the storage on a boat available for emergency supplies but I realise that wouldn’t suit everyone and for me would also mean cutting back on food preps. For me a boat could work as a bug out location but I’d see it as a waste and want to live on it full time. YMMV: “Your Mileage May Vary” as they say, depending on what you would be prepared to compromise on.

What was the lifestyle actually like? Harder than living in a house but the freedom it brought was more than worth it and it was an experience I’d hate to have missed out on. Obviously it wasn’t living fully off grid as I used bottled gas, filled the water tank from mains water supplied on the waterways network and used diesel for the engine (50p a gallon at the time) and petrol for the generator. However, as I was working full time I had the money to pay for these things and didn’t have enough spare time to be bothered to manage without them. I was also based on moorings most of the time which gave a sense of permanence and the security of being part of whichever boating community I was based in at the time.

One thing worth mentioning is the postal service and how much this impacts on “normal” life. Living in a house is considered the norm by so many people that it isn’t until you try to do things differently that you realise you’re going to have problems. Ever tried registering your car with the DVLA if you don’t have a house? Or getting a bank account? A doctor? I could go on but you can maybe start to see where I’m going with this, pretty much EVERY aspect of your life will be affected if you have no permanent home. A residential mooring is classed as a permanent home. I didn’t have one of those. So I acquired a PO Box address. This in itself isn’t as easy as I thought, as to get a PO Box you need a permanent residential address, which isn’t possible if you live on a boat without a residential mooring… The only way I could do it, and bear in mind that things may have changed in the past 25 years, was to have a friend or relative who would let me use their home address to register with the Post Office so they had somewhere to send their correspondence and annual renewal letters to (no, they wouldn’t send them to the PO Box that I collected my mail from). So, armed with my new PO Box address I registered my car, car insurance, boat insurance, work details, doctor, dentist etc etc. People were NOT happy. NOBODY would accept that I didn’t have a permanent home address but I guess the chap at the DVLA summed it up for most when he eventually admitted defeat with “Well we don’t like it but I guess we don’t have much choice”. My attitude was as uncaring as theirs, I wanted to live on my boat and didn’t actually give a damn if they liked it or not. I was always fairly polite in my conversations with those “officials” but never backed down, telling them what the situation was and that there was no other way of dealing with me, they used my PO Box or didn’t use anything. I think one or two of them were close to tears because their precious forms just didn’t cater for people like me.

More to come in Pt 5

2 comments to Tales from the Riverbank – Pt 4

  • iaaems

    So the ‘authorities’ condemn you as a ‘vagabond’. Sounds about right – you do not fit into their stereotype so you are automatically up to no good (you little devil!!).
    As I have close contact with the Broads (just a few hundred yards away) it has been noticed that there are a few ‘water gypsies’ around. As far as I can make out the decision to live as they do is a lifestyle choice although one or two are doing so out of necessity. The one thing they have in common is their ‘self sufficiency’ and ‘independence of spirit’, both of which, I have to say, I admire. Long may it continue.
    Thank you for this interesting series.

  • moosedog

    Thank you iaaems, I’m glad you have enjoyed the series. Your location sounds idyllic and I’m pleased to hear that there are still some water gypsies out there enjoying an independent lifestyle.

    The trouble I found with the authorities is that their default setting seems to be “you can’t do that” and if you show the slightest weakness they exploit it. You can’t even ask “why not?”, my experience was that the best response was along the lines of “well I am doing it, so let’s get on and sort the problem out”. Most of the people I met on boats were like me, just wanting to be left alone to get on with our lives in peace and quiet. There were some exceptions but you seem to get that in any walk of life.

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