Life on a canal boat during the November lockdown in London

Being cooped up in a canal boat is a somewhat unconventional way of spending the November lockdown.

Yet, it is the case for more than 4,000 people living in narrow boats across London. 

Lili Barras-Hargan, 25, and Kyle Leaver, 25, have lived in their canal boat, named Sundial, for more than a year.

Leaver said: “For people like us, continuous cruisers, it really is a lifestyle and you have to bend to the requirements of what it means to not have all of those conveniences.”

In normal circumstances, continuous cruisers are expected to move every 14 days under their boat licence terms and conditions.

However, during the November lockdown, the Canal & River Trust advised boaters to limit their navigation, moving only a minimal amount to access essential facilities or services.

The couple have stayed in King’s Cross during the November lockdown. 

Leaver said: “I get really bad cabin fever, I have to go outside everyday even if it’s just for a walk, I have to be out and about.”

Barras-Hargan is a part-time student and Leaver is a communications executive.

Barras-Hargan said: “We’ve been in places with so little signal that I haven’t been able to do my remote college studies, which has had a big impact.”

The couple got married three years ago.

During the first lockdown, the couple renovated their boat after it had flooded, which was completed in two weeks.

Leaver said: “The previous decoration was very dated, it was very 80s so we were able to make it look more modern.”

Barras Hargan added: “We’d never done anything like this.

“It felt really good, it was a completely different boat.”

PARKED: Barras-Hargan on her boat Sundial

The couple also had a weekly pub quiz with nearby boaters. 

Barras-Hargan said:“On Saturday we’d all sit on top of our boats and have a snack ready and we’d do six rounds of questions.

“It was really nice, a really good community feeling.”

Continuous cruisers, unlike people with residential moorings, do not have a permanent address. 

Before living in a narrowboat, the couple rented a one bedroom flat in Islington, where the total cost of rent and bills was approximately £1,500 a month. 

The couple’s living costs, excluding groceries and maintenance, now amount to less than £200 a month.

CANAL BOAT: Sundial in action moving down a canal

Barras-Hargan said: “We chose to live on a narrowboat because we couldn’t really afford to live in London.

“It’s not that easy to keep track of but we’re definitely saving money, there’s no doubt.

“There’s a lot of things we would have benefited from during the pandemic if we had a permanent address, like food deliveries.

“You do face a lot of challenges doing this but ultimately you come out of it stronger, individually and as a couple.”

OLIVE: Pringle and Booth have lived on their narrowboat for over a year

Alex Pringle, 25, and Daniel Booth, 26, are architectural assistants living in London. 

The couple have lived in their canal boat, named Olive, for over a year and during the November lockdown, have continued to make renovations to it.

Pringle said: “A lot of people during lockdown might feel like they’re going stir-crazy being in their house all day.

“One nice thing about having a boat is we can move and it makes you feel like you’re in a different environment.

“It’s been quite nice in a sense, we have space in the boat to work from home and it also gives us time to work on the DIY we’ve got to do.

“Before lockdown we’d have people round every weekend gawping at the fact we have to use a composting toilet.”

The couple have been going to their workplaces as well as working from home during the lockdown. 

Booth said: “The start of the day feels so much more relaxed.

“You can roll out of bed at half eight, put the coffee on, watch the birds outside.”

Previously, the couple were spending more than £1,800 per month on rent, bills and transport in London. 

Booth said: “We both hated the thought of paying so much to someone else which wasn’t going anywhere. 

“At least we know everything we’re paying now is coming back one day.”

PEACEFUL: The view from the front of Olive

Despite the lockdown, the couple have not felt isolated.

Pringle said: “We have taken advantage of the extra time you have not having social plans. 

“We’ve spent our time being quite insular and getting the boat done, that’s been our priority.”

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