When you think about someone ‘living aboard’ what sort of things come to mind? If you imagine the person is ‘aboard-abroad’ then you probably imagine them swimming in azure-blue water, sipping chilled drinks on deck as the sun goes down while watching flying fish and pods of dolphins. If you think about the UK, it’s a narrowboat in your mind, with sacks of coal and logs on the roof, perhaps inhabited by a grimy-looking person in a thick knitted sweater, who drinks beer, smokes roll-ups and maybe plays the accordion.
I’m sure both stereotypes and many more, exist.
I can’t tell you living on a boat (OK, only from April to September) is like for anyone else, but here’s a flavour of what it is for us.
We’re in Fryslan,a province in the northern Netherlands, which is more rural than the southern NL, has lots of meres (lakes) and rivers and where many people speak Frys, not Dutch. Again, our experiences aren’t ‘typical’ of the NL as a whole.
We’ve found people here are extremely friendly and welcoming and more than happy to speak English. They have a direct and dry sense of humour and once you start to get to know them, they won’t hesitate to rib you about your inability to pronounce Dutch words and the fact that the UK voted for ‘Brexit’. I’m sure the fact that we’re on a small, wooden sailing boat and visiting many out-of-the-way places also helps us to be accepted pretty fast. As I said last year, the opening question when people see our British flag, is:’Did you sail across the North Sea?’ Having been on a ferry crossing from Amsterdam to Newcastle a few weeks ago when there was a Force 8, occasionally 10 gale, I’m glad that we had Lady Christina brought here on a lorry.
So far this year, we’ve had tea and Stroop waffles on deck just once, stayed in an apartment for two nights while we got the boat ready, failed to have a beer because the bars aren’t open yet, except at weekends and had soup for lunch a few times. We tried to go to Leeuwarden, but a broken rail bridge stopped us, so we’re back in Grou harbour, a couple of hundred metres across the water from where Lady Christian spent the winter, in a boat shed. Yesterday the forecast was for a lot of rain, plus thunder, then high winds from 12 noon. So we secured the mooring ropes and cleaned out the bilges (nasty, but necessary) planning on rewarding ourselves with a beer afterwards. Well, the rain refused to fall, until we’d almost finished the slopping and mopping, then it hailed and thundered. Not worth leaving the boat, even for a beer.
Luckily, there was an emergency 4 pack under the floor. The rain continued for most of the night and this morning, there’s a Force 4 or 5 blowing. We managed to get to the Oostergoo Hotel’s lounge and drink coffee. And we’re walking locally to pay a bill this afternoon.
Before you get all sympathetic and launch a fund to get us out of here, I’ll say that the boat cabin is very cosy. We have internet, music on Spottify, books, art materials, knitting, candles (another Christmas present), food, tea and coffee and each other, of course.
The bars WILL open. The weather WILL improve. And when it does, I might take a dip in the peaty water to cool off.