My envy: it is boundless. Life on a houseboat (or in this case, a ketch)
July 30, 2015 6:51 AM   Subscribe

 
Tons of cool, but loses points for unnecessary and clickbaity use of "hipster" in the hook.

Which is to say, the author can't really take a dig at "the whiff of moustache wax" if her thesis is "I was doing it before it was cool."
posted by entropone at 7:13 AM on July 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


Remind me, what exactly is a hipster? A youngish person with some aesthetic sensibility who actively seeks out interesting things? I should be concerned because why?
posted by cobra libre at 7:19 AM on July 30, 2015 [19 favorites]


I have always always always wanted to do something like this. I have an inexplicable fascination for small living spaces that are also vehicles—RVs, boats, that giant inflatable research thing they dropped on top of the Amazon rainforest canopy that one time—and one of these days I really hope I get the opportunity to pull the trigger.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:20 AM on July 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I hated the use of the word "hipster" too as it seemed more like "someone who couldn't afford to buy property in London but already had a love of boats found a solution that worked for her to live in the city." Admittedly, that doesn't roll off the tongue.

The hipster angle would be more applicable if it was about young "creatives" snapping up boats left and right, but to me, this article was just about one woman's unconventional and happy life on a ketch.
posted by Kitteh at 7:20 AM on July 30, 2015


Have not lived on a boat, would like to. But, don't dream about this unless pictures of those "microhomes" seem spacious.
posted by sammyo at 7:24 AM on July 30, 2015


Remind me, what exactly is a hipster?

It's what happens to the bohemian impulse when it is filtered through a generation that has never known anything other than a thoroughly commodified, financialized culture.

Also, boat living is easy to romanticize if you've never lived with a marine toilet and constant, rising damp and mildew. Unless you really, really like being on the water, it gets old fast.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:25 AM on July 30, 2015 [22 favorites]


Negative points for being an article about a ketch without showing her under sail.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:28 AM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


Unless you really, really like being on the water, it gets old face.

You just have to use more sun screen.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:29 AM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am on a boat on the Thames (which I live in), right now.

Given the state of London real estate, I'm not sure it's necessarily small space living. My boat is bigger than a lot of nearby flats.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:29 AM on July 30, 2015 [21 favorites]


You just have to use more sun screen.

Hah! For once I caught it before the edit window closed.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:31 AM on July 30, 2015


The original title "Ketch as Ketch Can" was rejected by editorial for unknown reasons.

Bonus points for ship's cat photo.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:32 AM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Leave it to you people to kvetch about a ketch.
posted by dr_dank at 7:32 AM on July 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


You can't throw a herring without hitting someone living on a ketch or a yawl these days. For true London hipsters, the preferred two-masted sail-abode is the schooner. They're more of an American thing, you probably haven't heard of them.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:32 AM on July 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


I am on a boat on the Thames (which I live in), right now.

*steeples fingers* GO ON........
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:34 AM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also, boat living is easy to romanticize if you've never lived with a marine toilet and constant, rising damp and mildew. Unless you really, really like being on the water, it gets old fast.

Well, yes, but she actually decided to learn about how to do this and initially start boat living during winter. Again, she found a solution that worked for her. I would never assume it would be the same across the board for everyone.
posted by Kitteh at 7:36 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sokka - YES, I'm the same way. It's why the Millennium Falcon is so cool - it's an armed apartment that flies around in space.
posted by ColdOfTheIsleOfMan at 7:41 AM on July 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


I have a lot of convincing to do with Mrs. Glaucon. I'll be back.
posted by glaucon at 7:43 AM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Remind me, what exactly is a hipster?
Somebody who knows more than one graphic designer.
posted by entropone at 7:47 AM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have always always always wanted to do something like this.

Same here, though I romanticize living in a camper van (down by the river) and driving around in the summer exploring the continent and maybe learning how to surf.

I recently moved to a new apartment, and while I don't think I own a lot of stuff and I am pretty relentless at getting rid of stuff I don't use, packing it all up made me realize how unrealistic living out of a van is for me. I just have too much stuff! Stuff I regularly use!

I have lots of respect for people who can simplify their way down to living in a ketch, schooner, or punt (especially the punt).
posted by selenized at 7:47 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Every time we go to England, I search with yearning for houseboat rentals on Air BnB. Well, I am headed to the UK for my 40th next year so time to actually try it out!
posted by Kitteh at 7:48 AM on July 30, 2015


Remind me, what exactly is a hipster?

It's a type of trousering that was considered natty by my contemporaries about fifty years since. Would you like me to explain the wireless?
posted by Segundus at 7:51 AM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


I lived on a boat for a year from 1986-1987, though we were mostly in warm climates (Bahamas, Virgin Islands, etc). I was also just a kid. That said, it was a pretty awesome experience. You can acclimate pretty easily to the marine pump-action toilets and the constant swaying. Being able to go from place to place in your home is a major plus.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:52 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I lived on a boat, I would go mad. My love of fiddling with stuff would endlessly be in conflict with my love of stuff (like actual books). I'd need a barge or something to tow behind.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:53 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Given the state of London real estate, I'm not sure it's necessarily small space living. My boat is bigger than a lot of nearby flats.

I have a friend who lives on a narrowboat moored on a canal in central London. It is, to be fair, titchy inside, but she's essentially living in a neighbourhood where house prices are £1million+ on a budget that would, at best, get her a small flat somewhere out in the sticks and the attendant commute. She is plagued by the police dredging for dead bodies, noisy coots and drunken dickheads in punts though.
posted by sobarel at 7:55 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


if you've never lived with a marine toilet

Is that a boatword for pooping over the side because I'm fine with that.
posted by griphus at 8:06 AM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Offshore is a pretty good novel from the mid Uh-Ohs about folks who lived on rehabbed BARGES* on the Thames.

----------------------------
*A barge would satisfy some of you people's desire to live on the water in a house that can go places (with some assistance), but which can also store all your volumes of stuff.
posted by notyou at 8:12 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am confused about the caption on this Daily Mail photo (linked to from the original article): A window decoration on a houseboat gives a clue to what profession many of the residents are involved in. None of the objects I can see in that photo -- feathers, sheets of plastic, mummified dog -- readily indicate an occupation.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:21 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Infosec guru Moxie Marlinspike made a documentary about renovating a derelict sailboat and traveling around the Caribbean. Watching this is a good litmus test for whether life at sea is for you. I now own a nice landfaring van.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:34 AM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's what happens to the bohemian impulse when it is filtered through a generation that has never known anything other than a thoroughly commodified, financialized culture.

So, every generation since the rise of industrial capitalism.
posted by maxsparber at 8:35 AM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


This kind of life is honest-to-god one of my short-list retirement daydreams. Except I'm in New York, where I suspect access to a dock would be in even shorter supply.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:44 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


None of the objects I can see in that photo -- feathers, sheets of plastic, mummified dog -- readily indicate an occupation.

Burlesque dancer, assassin and taxidermist. Duh.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:50 AM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've wanted to live on a canal boat since I first saw one in Bristol.

Anyone interested in this kind of thing and what the culture of it used to be before it started to gentrify should drop by the London Canal Museum.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:50 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


My dad used to build gaff rigged yawls patterned after traditional flat bottomed Thames Barges, and when I was a kid we used to sail all around the South East coast on one of them, although we never lived aboard her. Traditional boats from that area are stunning.
posted by emilyw at 9:02 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


The reason why living in a tiny home or a houseboat appeals to me is the mythical idea of a simplified life. I admit: I have too much stuff. Part of it I blame on my magpie nature, the other is because I have a decent amount of disposable income to spend stuff I want and like. (The option of being childfree makes this only too easy.) The house we bought earlier this year is an 112-year-old 2.5 stories with four (!) bedrooms. I often feel guilty about having all that room for just two people and three cats. But it's the house we fell in love with, so I indulge the side of me that dreams of really paring our lives down to the basics and being more unmoored. I do understand that that is likely only an illusion.
posted by Kitteh at 9:10 AM on July 30, 2015


For those fascinated by this, search YouTube for the terms 'liveaboard' and 'cruiser lifestyle' - you'll see that there are many permutations of this. I was dreaming, for a time, about a Westerly Konsort (not a Duo) 29' with an electric engine, composting toilet (and extra freshwater tanks/batteries where the 'holding' tank was), and as many solar panels as I could fit on it. With the bilge keel giving a draft of less than 5 feet, I'd ply the navigable rivers and canals of Europe, sail the Med, perhaps make the Horn of Africa; catch fish for dinner and bike around seaside towns if I found cheap mooring. It'd be great!

Then I realized that I don't know how to sail.
posted by eclectist at 9:13 AM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


the side of me that dreams of really paring our lives down to the basics and being more unmoored

Possibly inadvisable on a houseboat...
posted by emilyw at 9:16 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


The one thing that I've learnt about living on a boat is that there are too many boat based metaphors, which makes life confusing:

Example:
Show you the ropes
Push the boat out
In my wheelhouse
On board
(and so on)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 9:21 AM on July 30, 2015


I always wonder: how much mooring space is available? It's cheap(er) because there is a surplus of mooring available, eh? But at some point that goes away, one assumes.
posted by maxwelton at 10:06 AM on July 30, 2015


Then I realized that I don't know how to sail.

I don't know that either, but I have found a way to learn....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:12 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


In the article, she talks about they had to moor illegally while waiting for a spot to come available. I have heard that there are very very few spots to park your houseboat so you are on a waiting list for a while.
posted by Kitteh at 10:17 AM on July 30, 2015


Ever since I was a teenager obsessed with Don Johnson on Miami Vice I've wanted to live on a boat. No alligator for me, though. I will settle for the Ferrari.
posted by spicynuts at 10:20 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love how when I daydream - in this case of an alternate universe me who picked up and moved to London to live on a boat in his 20s - I get really, really specific about little things while glossing over the Big Stuff. This is why I've spent my free time on the desk looking at boat layouts, mooring locations, and London neighborhoods in order to better imagine alternate fiction me, all the while glossing over how I could even emigrate to London, buy a boat, and get a mooring spot with "Guess I won the lottery or something.... anyways, back to quibbling between Dutch-made barges of the 1920s."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:24 AM on July 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


"This kind of life is honest-to-god one of my short-list retirement daydreams. Except I'm in New York, where I suspect access to a dock would be in even shorter supply."

From what I was told by a city councilman, US maritime law says that all shoreline along waterways is public property open to mooring by anyone. Hence you will see plenty of sailboats and other types of boats moored along the Newtown Creek in Brooklyn which are used as permanent homes. I do not know how accurate that councilman's claims were, but there is ample evidence of people living on boats moored along the waterways of NYC.
posted by spicynuts at 10:26 AM on July 30, 2015


I love boats, and this has always been a fantasy. Have known people living aboard in Maine, through winter, which requires a bubbler under the boat to keep it from developing a nasty ice crust. Too hardcore for me; I'd be terrified of going overboard in heavy winds in winter. Just walking on an icy dock would be sketchy. Probably a fast way to go, but, still. Doesn't the Thames freeze some winters? Probably not any more.
posted by theora55 at 10:26 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


theora55, I was like, "Well, if I can't afford to live in the UK on a boat, maybe on the St Lawrence River in Montreal?"

There is a reason why I can't find anyone who does that.
posted by Kitteh at 10:30 AM on July 30, 2015


From what I was told by a city councilman, US maritime law says that all shoreline along waterways is public property open to mooring by anyone. Hence you will see plenty of sailboats and other types of boats moored along the Newtown Creek in Brooklyn which are used as permanent homes.

yeah, but are they able to hook up to electricty and sewer lines the way you are if you have a slip at, like the 79th Street Basin?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:34 AM on July 30, 2015


(Hey RcIB, mine is a 1910 Luxemotor near Kew, is that on your list?)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 10:39 AM on July 30, 2015


Stop trying to make ketch happen. It's not going to happen.
posted by Hoopo at 10:41 AM on July 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


It could be, Guy. I saw a Luxe listed somewhere that was in the middle of being refurbished and had most of its interior walls out and was like YES THIS IS WHAT MILLIONAIRE BOHEMIAN ALTERNATE ME NEEDED TO GET THROUGH 2003.

Then I got concerned that I'd have to take up jogging, what with living on a tow path and all, so I decided alternate me would live in an alternate Isle of Dogs that was just on the fun side of scuzzy, and I'm not sure a ~30m Luxe would fit there.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:52 AM on July 30, 2015


Before this one I lived on a 30 metre Luxemotor in the scuzzier parts of the isle of dogs....
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 10:56 AM on July 30, 2015


MY DREAMS CAN COME TRUE!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:11 AM on July 30, 2015


This kind of life is honest-to-god one of my short-list retirement daydreams. Except I'm in New York, where I suspect access to a dock would be in even shorter supply.

Go inland, up the Hudson.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:11 AM on July 30, 2015


theora55, I was like, "Well, if I can't afford to live in the UK on a boat, maybe on the St Lawrence River in Montreal?"

There is a reason why I can't find anyone who does that.


They might, but they'd go south for the winter.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:16 AM on July 30, 2015


Yeah, I know, but I guess in my version I just have enough money to anchor outside a major city but not to travel during the winter. I do not dream big enough, I guess.
posted by Kitteh at 11:20 AM on July 30, 2015


My husband and I are actively making plans to live on a boat in the next several years. I was too scared to just jump on board right away, so we decided to downsize to 400 sq ft (about 37 sq m). It's been 3 months, and so far, it feels very spacious, even though we have virtually no storage. So I'm cautiously optimistic.

Anchoring outside a city is totally doable, and maybe end up being cheaper than rent (even taking into account the maintenance costs of a boat). The bigger problem for me is that I can't simultaneously work and travel, and if I'm not traveling, I'd rather have a proper kitchen where I can do proper cooking and baking.
posted by ethidda at 11:30 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]




LBR, my main reason for houseboat living is just see how my cats would deal with it.
posted by Kitteh at 11:38 AM on July 30, 2015


There are a bunch of houseboats moored at Granville Island in Vancouver BC - notably, there's (used to be?) a teensy little houseboat with a hockey net up on the roof with hockey sticks and hockey balls.
posted by porpoise at 12:43 PM on July 30, 2015


The daydream has advanced. After living a semi-bohemian life of quirk in the Isle of Dogs, I decide to settle down on Tagg's Island upriver.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:26 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


There have been a couple of recent articles about a neighbourhood of water houses in Toronto. They are more like floating houses than boats but they do seem like an interesting place to live.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:29 PM on July 30, 2015


This kind of life is honest-to-god one of my short-list retirement daydreams. Except I'm in New York, where I suspect access to a dock would be in even shorter supply.

C'mon, more pierage gonna be available right quick.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:29 PM on July 30, 2015


There are a bunch of houseboats moored at Granville Island in Vancouver BC

And, this being Vancouver, they are priced accordingly.
posted by jokeefe at 2:47 PM on July 30, 2015


> are they able to hook up to electricty and sewer lines the way you are if you have a slip a

You could be like the Floating Neutrinos and just dump your crap overboard. Wait, no, they're not good role models.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:38 PM on July 30, 2015


I love the idea of living on a boat. The major downside for me is I don't like seafood.
posted by evilDoug at 8:37 PM on July 30, 2015


I'm currently training to be a liveaboard. First, I built a twenty foot sailboat in my garage, which I launched on the Erie Canal four years ago. That was my ticket in, as moored to a canal wall, all the other boaters were charmed by my moxie, and taught me buttloads. There is a whole community of cruisers (both sail and motor) that do the loop every year, mostly retirees. The engine folks usually stick to the inland waterways and the coasts, and the sailors go everywhere. Many of the older folks have done the loop many times, then they settle in to just living on the canal in the summer and on other boats down in Florida in the winter, like my friend Dick.

Dick is 85 and his boat card (everyone's got one, like a business card but for boaters, with cell phone, e-mail addresses and such) carries the title Capt. Cantankerous. I bought a 40 foot cruiser earlier this summer, and coerced Dick into helping me deliver it to my home port. It was much more boat than I was used to, and I wanted his help because the boat was in Sodus Point on Lake Ontario and we would have to take it across the lake and up the Oswego River to get it into the canal. That's more than one hundred miles in a used boat (1986 Cruisers Inc. Chateaux Vee) so you can understand my concern.

Anyway, long story short, the first day out we hit a railroad tie and took out the starboard engine. We tied up in Phoenix New York and the Erie Canal Corporation closed the canal the same day due to high water and debris. So I spent almost two weeks tied to a wall below Lock One on the Oswego. We finally got accepted into a flotilla of 10 boats led by the Canal Corporation (they still hadn't opened the canal to general traffic) and moved 35 miles at about 5-6 miles an hour. It took like 6 hours. Three days travel time got us to my Marina (Midlakes Macedon Landing, Hi Shelley! Hi Steve!) where the repairs are gonna end up costing about half what I paid for the boat. We bent the prop, the rudder and the shaft. We were lucky it didn't fracture the hull. Those old boats are built like tanks.

Turns out the smartest thing I ever did was insuring the darned thing the night before we began our journey. Talk about a shakedown cruise. I gotta tell you, delivering a boat is whole different ball game compared to just cruising.

Anyway, it worked out because we hauled the boat for repairs, which gave me a chance to wash and wax the hull, and spend a lot of time working on the interior and learning the systems (there's a LOT of systems on a 40 foot boat), and I hope to have her back in the water next week. Then I've got about 3 months left of the season. I consider this boat my "trainer," so in a year or three, we'll sell this one and move up to a 50 footer. Then we'll sell the house, and get some boat cards.
posted by valkane at 4:31 AM on July 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


Valkane check your email because YOU ARE MY GURU NOW
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:40 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, general info about living on the Erie: most villages have free and or really cheap moorings available with power and water hook-ups. They also have shower and toilet facilities, and some have laundry. Marinas are few and far between (and can be expensive) so gas up whenever you get the chance.

Most boats carry bicycles so the owners can tour around the villages.

Since the canal is connected to the Hudson and the Great Lakes, we get Canadians, folks from Michigan, Australians, generally folks from all over the world docking on the canal. There was a lady in her 60's from Denmark single-handing a 25 foot sailboat came through last week.

Also, there's a fleet of Rental Canal boats, and you'd be surprised how many folks from the UK come over here to vacation on our canals. A lot of Texans and folks from the southern states do this as well.
posted by valkane at 4:43 AM on July 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


I too share a dream of tootling around British inland waterways in a narrow boat. If you live aboard, you must pay a mooring fee to the canal trust, higher in some areas, lower in others and lower still if you are a continuous cruiser with no home mooring.
Come winter, the canals are routinely shut due to ice and maintenance, which is potentially a pain if you need to move the boat to empty a toilet tank or take on water.
An adequate used canal boat costs not much more than a new car, so it is financially easier than rent or paying a mortgage, and you get to traverse England.
posted by bystander at 5:50 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


« Older Planning for the next Vesuvius eruption   |   Mapping the United Swears of America Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments