On Friday the 19th of August at precisely 17:25 in the year 2016, the stars aligned and we agreed to buy our first ever houseboat, Odin. It was an overwhelmingly happy moment, the culmination of 3 years dreaming and searching.
We don’t want the bricks and mortar life. My partner Chris and I both separately tried the buy-a-regular-house thang before we got together and decided it didn’t suit us.
We don’t want a that-was-smart-in-20-years investment either. We’re living right now and we believe we can be happy right now by living within our means. Not to mention, within the Earth’s means too.
We spent 4 happy years renting a central London apartment with a stunning view of the River Thames, only to find ourselves spoiled forever. How could we put down roots when a 1 bedroom river-view costs nearly a million pounds? How in our right minds could we justify continuing to spend a fortune on rent? The alternatives – a suburban lifetime mortgage or a long daily commute from somewhere waterside and lovely – did not appeal.
Our search for a boat home started in 2013 and our early viewings were either too small or too big, too expensive, moored in the wrong spot or not moored anywhere at all. It just never worked out.
Step away, reset
Unsure of our next move, we split the city at the end of 2015 and spent 6 months travelling around New Zealand in a campervan. It was the perfect excuse to sell all our crap, simplify, and get back in touch with nature and my Antipodean roots. I blogged as we travelled over at Vanmaison.com.
We returned to London at the start of July, determined to think a little smaller and give the boat purchase another whirl. It was an unsettled, transient time. It felt like we were back at square one, or in limbo (without the party, piña coladas and bending over backwards).
We extended our search to greener areas further west along the River Thames. We turned the dial to 11 on our research efforts and two weeks later, we stumbled across Odin the Wanderer.
A willowy world away
With the purchase of Odin, we managed to secure an extremely rare residential mooring on an island in the River Thames. It’s a short commute by train from London and genuinely feels like another green, willowy world.
There are no roads or bridges to the island, or ait (also ‘eyot’), as islands in the Thames are properly referred to. You need to hop on a boat to get to our boat.
In the warmer months, you can ask the friendly ferryman who operates just upstream from the island to drop you at our mooring. A ferry has been making the river crossing there for 500 years. The history of the area is palpable.
I took one look at Odin nestled in her willowy home on the first viewing and just knew we would be living there soon enough. Covered in leaves and rubbish, she had been half restored by the previous owner and left alone for a year or more. I saw us pottering on her large deck and transforming her small space into our cosy first home.
When the sale went through a rocky patch and was called off for a time, I found it difficult to believe that my senses would deceive me so. I was just coming to terms with my faulty intuition when I received a call to say the sale was back on. Finally some momentum: crane, survey, offer accepted last Friday. Bam.
Sometimes you just know.
Odin is a 52.5 ft early 1900s deck ship from Holland. She was used to transport tulip cargoes before her cosy living quarters were added decades later. We think. We’re looking forward to uncovering more details about her history in time.
For now, Odin needs urgent maintenance. We want to move aboard as soon as possible but we have our work cut out for us and some money to part with first.
I’ll be blogging about our progress as we bring her back from her long rest under the willow trees on the River Thames.