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A New Voyage Ahead

Submitted by on May 24, 2012 – 11:4010 Comments

About 9 months ago my partner put forward the idea of living on a narrowboat, inspired by a couple of friends of ours and a mutual desire to  live more sustainably. There were many hurdles that needed to be addressed, but after lots of research, planning and learning, i’m well excited to say that idea which seemed highly unfeasible for ages is now almost a reality! \o/

For any newsletter subscribers reading this, i’m including this post to explain / excuse the slight delay in sending the 2nd newsletter, although it does have a few studio discoveries later in the post which might useful. April was a month taken up with serious downsizing, alongside the search for loans, & seeing how it could all realistically work. It’s been about 3 months since finding an affordable and suitable narrowboat, and now we’ve found a loan for most of it & a workable plan for living on it, things have started moving really quickly!

The boat (pictured above) is a 60fit narrowboat in very good condition, which we found when looking back in february. After seeing a couple that had carpet on the walls & felt really enclosed, it was a breath of fresh air to see this boat, as it was really open plan with an intelligent use of space & storage. We had a real good feeling with the owner too who had just come back (literally 10 minutes before we met him) from his humanitarian work in India. He is a yoga teacher & back specialist and there was a definite feeling of honesty & trust – something we’d been warned to look out when looking to buying a boat a for for obvious reasons.

We knew a little about narrowboats from our friends (also very honest and straightforward people), and from lots of internet research, but just being shown around was a real education in itself, and it really started to feel like something we were going to do as opposed to just wanted to do. After looking at loads of boats online we knew the asking price was good, and although it was a bit out of range we had a very good feeling about it, and went on the long road to making it happen.

2 months later the owner kindly let us have our first “drive” of a narrowboat and with the sunshine out it was a pretty magical experience and further deepened our resolve. Neither of us drive or have ever owned a house, so i guess that made it all the more exciting too. At the end of the journey we were greeted with this huge full rainbow in the sky which was pretty cool too :)

Finding finance was a real mission as neither of us had ever considered a loan or morgage, and theres so much criteria and stopping blocks if you’re self employed. Without going into too many boring details we eventually found a loan option which will be balanced by cutting our living costs in half, but it was a stark realisation about how accessible buying your own place of residence is it is to people who dont have much money.

This is one reason for mentioning the finance bit as, like lots of people i know, i dont have much money, and finding 10% of the cost of a house is way out of the question! Buying a boat with a short term loan (where you dont need to find that 10%) is one way out of being tied to paying out rent every month, and while it obviously comes with its own challenges, it also comes with lots of benefits, and it is way for being more responsible in terms of energy and sustainability which is so much more costly with a house, and really difficult in rented accomodation.

You can get a morgage for boats btw, but it requires a permanent residence/mooring which adds another 3 grand on top of all the other costs. The other option which we opted for is continously cruising until we can save more money – which, aside from the license, and various costs of the boat, is free, but you have to move to the next neighbourhood every 14 days… Were both really looking forward to that side though.

My big mission, was how do take my modest home studio, (which i’ve always had a dedicated room for in past rented accomodation), and effectively fit it onto a very small section of the boat in a shared lounge (and impose as little as possible on the lounge itself)?..The short answer is – i can’t, so over the last 2 months i’ve been looking at options ranging from setting up in a mate’s van and parking it in a field somewhere, to sharing studio space. I also researched security and found lots of options, many of which are pretty easy if you know some welders as the boat is basically a steel box.

The main point though is sharing such limited space, so we’re both sharing external studios spaces, which i think will be a really interesting thing in itself. Soon as we’d worked that out though, synchronicity was out once again in full effect for us both. Mine came literally the next day, with an option to share the bits of useful equipment i had built up with a good friend who was building her own studio in a community arts space, and finding good homes for that which i didnt really need to keep hold of.

That part of this whole process – the whole downsizing thing – has been the most rewarding so far. I spent 2 weeks in April, going through pretty much everything i owned, from a box of letters and special memories, through to all the leads and connectors for the music making gear, and tried to be as ruthless & imaginative as possible.

I had about 2 rooms of stuff and having to move onto what is pretty much 2 desks worth of space & a cupboard invigorated some serious decisions about what is really needed and what to do with it all. What i found was that all that stuff was creating its own weight in a kind of open loop which had various unresolved actions attached to it, and therefore sat somewhere in my psyche. Stuff that is hardly used in the studio but could be useful, books that are never read but look really good, clothes that are rarely worn, and things that just take up a lot of space all have had to go, and the feeling afterwards is much freear, and i feel pretty lucky to have gone through the process as i probably wouldnt have otherwise.

There have been a fair few things that i do use a lot that i wanted to keep, like my weights bench & heavy bag, a set of big speakers, and other stuff that just won’t fit. But going to the most minimal possible setup in all areas has just forced me to look at everything in a different way and create new methods of achieving the same, or hopefully better, results. I read a post from a friend of mine recently about the man who only has 15 things & while i have a long way to go before that kind of lifestyle, this last month has been liberating in a similar sense for my own purposes which are obviously different for us all.

In terms of downsizing for any producers out there, the most useful bit of info that i found out was studio monitoring headphones, and the AKG-702 monitoring headphones which are around £200 and replicate a flat studio monitoring environment. As my studio monitors are going into the shared space i needed something where i could produce with just me and a basic laptop and these have seemed to be the best option.

They take 300 hours to properly break in, and i’ve only had them since my birthday, but i love them already. Having never owned a great pair of headphones aside from the ones for djing, these really feel like i could trust what they are telling me, and the clarity of the different frequencies easily rivals, if not betters, my Tannoy reveal 5d monitors. Although they are headphones and will take some getting used to, they aren’t going to change dependant on their environment which is a very factor of setting up monitors and always been something ive never been sure of, so i’m really looking forward to getting back to the album again and seeing how they affect my production abilities.

On the music making tip, The other thing which has been really useful is having to find more efficient ways of routing audio, largely due to having to downsize and be so concious of how much power things use, which satisfied my inner geek no end.  I stripped everything down to the bare minimum of what i would ideally keep with me and in the process, found all sorts of new routing possibilities. I also have started rereading getting things done and revisted a lot of the workflow systems that i created in late night sessions over the last year or so, so it all feels like a new start in a lot of ways.

This is turning into a really long blog, and theres plenty of stuff to be working out and forthcoming challenges to face, both in the living on a boat and developing the projects, but hopefully all will evolve well and we’ll be one big step closer to being more self sustainable.

If you’re interested in living on a narrowboat, or have lived on a narrowboat please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment as very interested in sharing and learning. Otherwise i look forward to writing another blog when were on there..

providing we can get some internet! ;)

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10 comments on “A New Voyage Ahead

  1. John R on said:

    Great to see you got the boat mate and it’s a beaut by the look of it!

    All the best in your new adventures :)

  2. marcreck on said:

    Thanks mate! :) Looking forward to inviting you over for a cuppa on the water :)

  3. Neil Spragg on said:

    Hey Mark, what a great read, and I’m really chuffed for you…and truth be told more than a bit jealous…about your new life ahead. Not sure I have met your partner, but if anyone can make this work you can, you have the enthusiasm and the energy to do it, and the boat looks like a peach. Nice one :-) x

  4. marcreck on said:

    Ahh thank u mate! Means a lot to read that. Pretty sure you know Pyn as she thinks v highly of you too. Looking forward to inviting you down for some cruising & hopefully coming to visit you one day….hopefully via canal :) Mx

  5. Rob on said:

    A great read. Hope you make it up to Marple on the Peak Forest Canal one day. It’s 16 or more locks between Romily and New Mills but the pub at the end of it is worth the strain.
    Nothing is better than being at large, in charge of a gay inland waterway barge.

  6. marcreck on said:

    Haha thanks Rob! :) Sounds like a great recommendation. Off to go find it on the map now & hope see you soon….nice rhyme too mate ;)

  7. Amrita on said:

    How delightful and inspiring!!The boat looks beautiful. Loved the downsizing and the man who has 15 things it made me unreasonably happy! All the best I look forward to reading more.

  8. marcreck on said:

    Ahh Thanks Amrita! :) X

  9. DaveNoHands on said:

    sounds amazing, marc,
    where is your boat and when can i come visit? :)

  10. marcreck on said:

    Nice one Dave – Just emailed

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