So there I was living in a car park in my 59 foot narrow boat! really, it was like living in a shed, but one that you had to get into with a ladder. The first winter that I spent on the boat, in the car park was freezing! I’d frequently wake up in the morning and there would be ice on the inside of the windows, there was no heating at all as I’d spent the last of the budget on the electrical system, the only bonus was that the mooring fee included all electricity, so in the evenings I would use a 2 kw electric heater in a small section of the front of the boat, and I had a gas-powered camping stove that I would leave running for the evening. Every weekend was spent boat building, with the bathroom taking precedence over everything else, followed by the electric installation. Using the new inverter charger meant that I could run power tools from the boats 12 volt batteries, but also when on a mooring I could plug the boat into the shore side electric supply and the charger part would keep the batteries topped up, whilst the split circuit and charging design meant that running the boat on its own batteries would not discharge the engine battery. One of the best weekends was the one when I built my bed, I could finally stop sleeping on the floor, and having the bed at waist height meant that there was plenty of storage underneath, so I could get all my clothing underneath, and stop living out of a rucksack! I then part built a wardrobe, so I could hang clothes up as well, such luxury! At this point it is worth pointing out that I was blissfully happy living on my boat, even though it was on land, I couldn’t foresee any circumstance where I would want to move off it, and indeed, it was three years before I spent a night off it. Luckily the marina where I was living had a good toilet and shower block, so I didn’t need a fully functioning bathroom, or hot and cold running water, which was lucky as they were going to take a while to come about. One of the mistakes I made was when I decided to make the entire kitchen myself, I could have bought some cheap carcases and doors from a DIY store and used those, which would have been cheaper, quicker and better looking, but I thought that I could do it, I never got around to building the doors, and ended up a couple of years later ripping out one side and replacing it with some Ikea units that I was given by a friend, so half of the kitchen looked great in the end.
After 8 months or so in the car park, I was told that there was a residential mooring coming up in the marina, I wanted this, as it would mean that I had a permanent base to moor, shore side electric, all the marina facilities and a friendly, helpful community in which to live. The only down side was that the boat had to be in the water in a week or so, so I had to quickly bitumen the hull, and get some paint on the topsides, before she was craned into the water. The bitumen was messy, but easy, as you just slap it on, a couple of coats and the jobs done, but the topsides needed stripping of all the old primer, re-priming, then 2 or 3 topcoats. The cabin sides of my boat are 50 feet long, but when scraping and sanding by hand, back to the bare steel they felt like 50 miles long. Luckily there was a week of early warm weather where I got all the preparation done, followed by the priming, then it was back to freezing weather when I needed to get the top coat on. I ended up covering the sides in sections, and using a space heater to get the temperature warm enough to allow the paint to dry. One good decision I’d made was to buy top quality marine enamel paint, it cost a fortune, but went on well and looked really nice, I wish I’d done this when it came to re-painting the roof later on. Just a couple of days before the boat was craned into the water, I got a day or two to paint the roof, I only had enough paint for one coat, but I could add more later! Two days later I came home from work and the boat was in the water. Being in the car park was fine, but to have the boat back in the water made her feel like she was alive again.