Location: on the British canal system
Here is a list of my top 10 things about canal boats, just my thoughts, other people may have more to add.
1) Getting closer to nature
When on my canal boat I find that I have more time to appreciate nature and the world around me. I see all sorts of waterways life, like the birds who live in and around the water. I have seen a kingfisher twice now. I have started to learn more different types of birds, plants and fish. You start to see different types of natural behaviour, like when there are a lot of bubbles appearing on the surface of the water that often means that there are a lot of fish feeding there or the crayfish are grubbing about.
2) People are friendly
People along the canals are often there to relax as a way to unwind, that means that they are more open and friendly, and also there is a community of boaters who all generally stick together to help one another. When people go somewhere to relax they are often more friendly, my Granddad and his wife used to go down for a walk by the canals and stand on a bridge and wave to whatever boats went past. Children are also more excited about boats as it is out of their normal way of life.
3) The link to history
Canal boats were not just for the leisure industry they have a long heritage of working. This created a new subculture with its own art, the roses and castles come to mind. There is a history on each canal, why it was built, how long was it a working canal, any major events happen nearby. There is also the link to the other culture of the working boatmen and their families. They became a people apart like the gypsies and had their own culture and values.
4) You have more time to just stand and stare
When on a boat I find that everything just does not seem so important to rush through it. Time can be taken enjoying things, watching nature, cleaning, taking a walk. You transform in to a mindset where there is always time and you don’t have to try to cram every last little bit of doing in to your day. If it takes 3 days to clean the outside of your boat because you keep being distracted by the little ducklings and talking to people walking past then who cares that you could have done it in three hours if you cut out all the distractions. Time can be taken just to be.
5) You own your own front door
Nothing, I repeat, nothing is like knowing that you own your own front door that no-one can throw you out without a long struggle. It gives you a sense of security and a place to escape the world. Once you shut the door you are in your own space. You could own a house, but why would you when you can own a boat?
6) A lovely fire
Who does not like a fire, you light it and it heats the boat through and through, also you can cook on it. I have cooked soup and heated up water for tea on my stove while watching the flickering firelight through the glass door. It takes you back in time to when there was a slower pace of life and there was time to enjoy the little things in life, like a hot chocolate and a slice of cake.
7) The beauty of the boats
The canal boats are all individual art, they bring bright colours to the waterway and have a lot of really interesting names that you can speculate on the story behind. Finding unusual boat names is one of my favourite games to play when travelling. People decorate their boats with all different types of art, from traditional roses and castles to traditional Celtic designs to disguising their boat as a German U-boat. There is always something to see.
8) The ease of travel
If you don’t like your neighbours then just pull up your mooring pins and float away and find some more nicer ones. You can see the country while still having all the comforts of home. Alright, you can’t travel anywhere quickly but who needs speed? The pleasure is in the travelling, taking it slow and enjoying the scenery. The journey is the destination.
9) The engineering of the canals
Look at the aqueducts (the obvious being the Pontcysyllte aqueduct on the Llangollen canal), look at the tunnels (Blissworth, Standedge, Islington), look at the locks (any of them, especially the staircase ones), they are all magnificent designs and take your breath away, especially considering that mostly, when they were built it was all by hand. This was back in the days of the ‘Navvies’ who dug almost all of the canals. I haven’t travelled far yet to see these magnificent structures but I have seen pictures and am looking forward to it.
10) Good for the environment
Most boaters end up using less energy and have a smaller carbon footprint than people who live in a land based house. This is partly because people who choose to live on a boat are often the people more aware of nature and partly because it does not take so much energy to heat a small space or light a small room and partly because boaters need to be aware of their battery levels so they don’t destroy their batteries by using too much electricity. Anything that is good for the environment is a plus in my book.