Chapter One, or How We Slipped through the Cracks and Became (Aspiring) Boaters


We fell into the liveaboard lifestyle more or less by accident. We were living in Berlin and had been planning to move to the USA when Benn and his brother inherited an English narrowboat. Although Barnaby, Benn’s brother, was planning to use it as a liveaboard, there would be about a 5 month gap before he’d be able to move on. Not too much was working out for us in Berlin at the moment, so we decided to transport ourselves and our dog to the deepest, darkest fens of East Anglia and live on the boat for a few months while applying for Benn’s US visa.

Waterloo, our first boat, at the Riverside Island Marina, in Isleham, UK

We didn’t realize at the time that we would fall in love with the boating lifestyle. I had had vague dreams of living on a sailboat when I was about 15, but they had been abandoned years ago. Benn, who had a fair amount of boating experience, had always been pretty certain that the single most depressing thing one could do with his life would be to live on a boat. So, we were unlikely candidates, to say the least. Besides, we had other plans. We wanted jobs, careers, an old house to fix up, a relatively stable life. The kinds of things other adults had.

And yet, the first time we took the boat out, we knew we loved it. The freedom and independence, the thrill of pulling up into medieval harbors in our own moving house — it was such a perfect, unimaginable lifestyle, free of all of the weight of bureaucracy and landlords and bizarre forms of taxation that we had experienced in Germany (Who in America has ever heard of paying for a TV license when one doesn’t have a TV?). We were hooked.

I felt like a shrimping boat like this one in Grand Isle, LA, was a good option.  Benn disagreed.

In the end, we didn’t move to the US. Benn bought another narrowboat, Lilebelle, and I started the exciting process of bouncing back and forth every 6 months between my home state of Louisiana and the Cambridgeshire/Suffolk border, where our boat was moored. We cycled through a slew of plans: stay in England, move to Holland, buy a Dutch barge, tour the canals of France, until one day when we went to look at an old barge in Pin Mill and happened upon a sailor who had just returned from Greece. He and his wife had been living there for 6 years, bumping from island to island, mooring up for weeks outside of tavernas for free, feasting on calamari and retsina for 10 EUR a person, all without the drudgery of a day job, overly-stringent port authorities, and the particular brand of despair that can only arise in the dark, muddy wasteland of England in winter.

We had our plan.

The next steps were: 1) to sell Lilebelle and 2) to find a boat. After a gazillion viewings and false starts, we’ve managed to accomplish the first. Finding the right sailboat has proven more difficult. Sailboats are tricky and we don’t know quite what we’re looking for. There are tons of hidden costs and we have no money. The brokers we’ve met have seemed either relaxed and aimiable or wholly dishonest or all three. Every boat owner seems convinced that their boat is worth a million and can’t imagine why anyone would have a problem with a cracked hull or dodgy rigging or a rudder that’s more or less ready to fall off.

Advanced sailing

Benn was getting discouraged, I was getting frustrated. And then, last weekend, we found her — or we hope so. Pas de Deux, an Oceanic 30 in need of a good clean and some interior work, but otherwise completely seaworthy (OK, we’re not certain of that last bit, but we’re optimistic). She’s in our price range, moored in Ipswich, which is close to some of our favorite towns in England, in a prime area for sailing (or learning to sail), and just the right size for a dog and a couple with too many hobbies.

Our new home?

No, the papers haven’t been signed yet, and there are a few more things we have to do before we can take to the seas. After buying the boat and finishing the more or less extensive repairs, we have to actually learn to sail, and I have to find a way to legally live in England with my husband (harder than you would think). We have a journey ahead. This blog will be about that journey, from the how-tos and how-not-tos of boat maintenance, to the aesthetics of interior design on a boat, to learning to sail and navigate, to all of the wonderful places we will — hopefully — visit. If it’s not interesting to the general reader, it might be to our friends and family members, who can at least pretend to keep up to date on our travels.

So, wish us luck, bon voyage, keep your fingers crossed, etc… We’ve found our pied à l’eau and are ready to sail forth.


See ya later, landlubbers!

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