Did you know there was a rush on narrowboats in the UK during the pandemic? Whether as a way to escape or to save money in the midst of financial crisis, people have been making the move to living on-the-water — including Suzi and Joe.
They used to pay high rent for an apartment in London, and commute three hours a day to their jobs. Now they both “work-from-boat,” spending far less on utilities and using their “Continuous Cruising” license, which keeps them moving every two weeks to some new beautiful spot.
While their first couple months on the water haven’t been easy, Suzi (@on_the_rhymer) says they’re loving their new home and eco-friendly lifestyle in their off-grid narrowboat. Read the rest of our Q&A with the couple after the photo tour!
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Couple’s Floating Home “On The Rhymer”
They seek out sunny spots to charge their solar panels.
Suzi did mention you get a lot of wandering eyes peaking into your boat when docked.
This is the “hub” of their boat, where they eat, work and sleep.
Twinkle lights make everything better.
View from their “front porch” area.
Here’s their adorable tiny kitchen.
An oven and stove top makes cooking easy.
You can see beyond the kitchen they chose a composting toilet.
Here’s a lovely little water station.
And a safe spot for drinks.
Love that container for egg storage!
Inside the shower, this rack keeps things organized.
There’s even a tub here! And those hooks are awesome for drying off jackets.
The bathroom sink is small, but useful.
They did end up losing heat and electricity at the start of their journey. Eeks!
But hopefully it’s smooth sailing from here on out!
Interview with Suzi on Narrowboat Living
What are your name(s)?
Suzi Lane and Joe Morizzo
How many people (and animals) are living in your narrowboat?
Just the two of us. We can make it if we try…
Where do you live?
We live on a 40ft long Semi-Traditional Narrowboat called “The Rhymer” on the various canalways and rivers of the United Kingdom’s historic network.
How long have you lived tiny?
We are complete newbies – just 6-weeks into our adventure!
What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time?
We both work full-time. Joe is an Architect and runs his own practice in London. Suzi is a Development Manager for the Greater London Authority. During the pandemic we have been working full-time from our boat.
Why did you decide to go tiny? What are you hoping to get out of living tiny?
There are several reasons for our move. We live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and the property market currently makes it difficult to buy anywhere decent. Finances aside, the lifestyle appealed to us hugely. The nature of our work makes us intrinsically urban so we wanted to find a way to get back to nature. This seemed like a great start. Also, the tiny-living movement and especially living off-grid was appealing to both of us from a green perspective. It also gives us an opportunity to travel, see new places and potentially make new friends (in a socially distanced way) during the pandemic.
How did you first learn about narrowboat life?
We have a close friend who did exactly this two years ago and we’ve visited, experienced the growing young community of boaters in London and felt encouraged to join them.
How did you acquire your narrowboat? Are you comfortable sharing how much it cost? Have you done any renovations?
We searched and searched and searched again. It was difficult because there are such a large range of boats on offer but we had a relatively small budget. The demand for narrowboats was huge after the UK lockdown and they were selling fast! We had a couple of deal breakers – we knew we would need to be able to work from the boat so it had to be in a livable condition from the start and not too much of a project. We looked on various websites and even facebook to find different boats. We eventually purchased the boat through a broker for under £30k. The boat is in a very good condition and has been looked after with care. It was a holiday-home for many years, the timber is oiled and waxed, the brass is shiny and it was generally a very tidy space. We stepped aboard and had that ‘we could live here’ moment so we knew it was meant to be.
Having said all of this – there are aspects we want to adapt. Many of the boat’s internal workings are multi-functional (sofa turns into dining table turns into our guest bed) which is great. We had to install solar panels to the roof before we moved on, which was a large ticket item, but has meant that we can really start to live-off grid. They quite comfortably provide electricity for our laptops, lights, phone charging and even the fridge. There are internal decor changes we’d like to make, licks of paint here and there, flooring and a new worktop in the kitchen etc. We hope to get these done as we go along. Overall we quite like the timber aesthetic. It reminds us of a Swiss chalet mixed with a Swedish sauna (and with our multifuel stove on it feels like one too).
What are bills/utilities like compared to before?
We no longer pay for our electricity as it is provided by the glorious British sun (which we promise does show its face every now and again).
Gas (which powers our oven, hob and water heater) is by bottle and costs around £35 to replace which needs replacing every three months or so.
We have a big marine diesel engine which is very economical, we are yet to fill up and the tank doesn’t seem to have dropped at all since we’ve owned the boat. We will see how long this lasts!
We pay for fuel for the stove fire, there are companies along the canals (and on other fuel boats) who deliver straight to the boat. Other than these we pay a monthly insurance premium, our canal license and we also put a monthly amount into a savings pot for longer term big ticket maintenance items that come with maintaining a boat. All in all – the monthly bills are much more economical compared to before.
How did you find a place to “park” your boat? Or do you travel?
We are on a Continuous Cruising license which means we must move on every two weeks. This makes for a more adventurous lifestyle as we are always seeing new places. We tend to choose spots based on how beautiful it looks (but also how overshadowed it is for the solar panels). It’s a careful balance sometimes as being under a beautiful willow tree isn’t always so practical.
Before going tiny, what was life like?
We lived in a 1-bed rented flat in South London. It was fairly small and expensive as most places are in London. We both work quite intense jobs and travelling to work regularly took up 3 hours of our working day – everyday! Something had to give. Working from home has allowed us to make the changes we’ve made and pushed us out of our comfort zone.
Is there anything from your old life that you miss?
Owning a washing machine and tumble dryer for our clothes. The boat cannot power these items and we have to use laundrettes or the goodwill of friends and family, which means careful planning and carrying huge bags of washing around with us. We are getting better at this though and it’s becoming part of regular life now. We also tend not to wash everything after wearing it once – most clothes don’t need washing until you’ve worn them 2-3 times at least! Trust us – we don’t smell – yet (we hope). We’ve also found there are land dwellers along the canal who offer to do laundry for boaters – and this is quite handy!
What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?
Mainly we have seen a huge change of pace. We were busy city-workers (and still are) but owning the way we work has changed our lives. Being mindful and more conscious has been the most valuable and noticeable change so far. We are also now keen weather-watchers, constantly checking when it will be rain or high-winds. Seeing seasonal changes as it comes into fall, the birds beginning to migrate, the leaves turning shades of yellow, orange and red. All of this has contributed to an overwhelming sense of calm that we just didn’t have before.
What about some challenges?
Challenging is not the word for it! It was a nightmare at times. At one point we had a leaky engine-bay, no electricity and no gas. This was very difficult as we had no way of making hot water at all. We have cried and been at the point of breakdown already – but the positives far outweigh the negatives and once fixed we were up and running again in no time at all!
Also the toilet! We have installed a compost toilet which runs without any water, it definitely took some getting used to and often freaks out any guests!
What makes your tiny home special?
The ever-changing view out of the porthole window in our bedroom. I like that we can wake up and see Geese one day and a field of grazing cows the next! If we decide we are not liking it in one spot, we untie ourselves and move the house to a new spot. The freedom of it is very special and we have only seen the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to the vast network of Britain’s historic canals.
What is your favorite part of your tiny home?
Probably our multifunctional – sofa/table/guest bed. It’s where we spend most of our time and it’s closest to the fire!
What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?
Don’t get rid of everything first, perhaps try the lifestyle first and ease yourself in stages. We are lucky enough to have family nearby who can store some of our out of season clothes for example. We also had some lovely furniture bits that we’d inherited and we have stored them with family too – in case we upsize in the future. It’s a big transition to make so make sure you settle in and enjoy it first – that way it’s more likely to last.
Anything I didn’t ask about that we should know?
Moving onto a narrowboat isn’t the only way to experience the UK’s canal networks. There are a number of different types of vessels in the in-land waterways from Dutch Barges right through to decommissioned lifeboats. There are also plenty of opportunities to hire boats for shorter holidays to try the lifestyle.
The other aspect of UK canal living is often the complete lack of privacy! The boat windows are often level with the towpath and everybody loves to have a nosey!
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Our big thanks to Suzi for sharing! 🙏
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