It has been cold this week – around 3°C. Unfortunately our boiler broke down – no heating and no hot water. Fortunately we have a service contract and so were able to call an engineer out. Unfortunately his temporary fix only lasted overnight. Fortunately we have a wood burning stove. Unfortunately it is not working very well because the chimney has not been swept for four years. Fortunately, with new kindling and some TLC we have managed to light it. Unfortunately it does not heat the water or the radiators.
When we are in the house we get very used to utilities always working. You turn on a switch and the lights come on, open a tap and there is fresh clean water, click on your phone and the Internet is available. And without thinking the house is warm when it needs to be, and you can have a shower whenever you like. It is all very easy and when something does not work we get resentful, angry, confused.
It is very different on the narrowboat. There are three ways to heat the boat – the engine, a diesel stove or the Webasto boiler. The reason there are three ways is that often one or two ways are broken or inconvenient to use. The electricity is always on our mind. The solar is great in the summer but not in the dark, cloudy winters. The engine charges the batteries well but only easily when we are travelling. There is a mains hook up where we are moored in a marina, but we have to remember to top it up, or we will be cut off. And water is not always available. We have to remember to find a working canalside tap every couple of days to fill up, and once a year to disinfect the tank. As to the Internet, things are massively better than even a few years ago. We have a mobile powered WiFi router and can also tether to either of our phones which we have deliberately contracted with different networks, to maximise coverage. But it ain’t “always on”.
I wonder, is it better to have the ease and comfort of living in a house, with the consequent panic when something does fail. Or to live off grid on a boat, where it is harder work, but you understand it better. I’m not sure. I just know I don’t like being cold.
Fortunately the engineer is back today with lots of spare parts. And if that does not work, we can go back to the boat.
What is your view? Perhaps you believe that with sufficient layers of clothes, we do not need heating?