Yesterday afternoon I went down to Shoreham Beach for a walk, and found a row of houseboats. There was only one that looked anything like a seagoing proposition:
This was a redundant German minesweeper, and it looked as if it was ready go out on patrol on the very next high tide. But as a home? I accept that it might have some tiny cabins inside to sleep in, and a little galley to cook in, and a cramped mess to eat in, and a basic toilet. But where were the big windows to let in the sunshine and the view? Not exactly wunderbar, and, if ever I were thinking of giving up my comfortable bungalow with its charming garden for something with more 'character', not on my list of possible buys.
But some of the other houseboats had more obvious appeal as homes - although they had been extensively altered and added to in order to achieve that, and would never sail the seven seas again. For instance:
Hmmm...was that a real coach incorporated into the superstructure? And were the bombs and torpedoes resting in the mud defused and safe? I could see that those zany south-facing windows might let in a lot of light, but they were a bit too way out for my taste, and besides, they clearly weren't double-glazed! And possibly not even leakproof, if it rained, as it does sometimes even in sunny Sussex. But there were remedies for that - some of the other houseboats had clever canvas coverings to keep out the elements:
Problem sorted. And if looking for a real bargain, one could seek out boats with a permanent list to starboard:
If you're thinking that I'm being a bit sniffy about living offshore, then you're right. I have seen some very attractive floating homes here and there, but none have shivered my timbers. I do see that a houseboat is different and not boring, and could be cool and trendy. I do see that houseboats lend themselves to a certain free style of living. And I do see that if not tied up in a marina, or a proper harbour, or on the Thames, or in the centre of London, the mooring fees might be affordable. And I also appreciate that one need not fall overboard and drown, if tipsy one dark night. And surely it wouldn't matter that one's wooden home was an uninsurable firetrap, awkward, gloomy, leaky, damp, cold in winter, stifling in summer, and surrounded by acres of smelly mud?
Let's talk money. A quick glance on the internet suggests that purchasing a houseboat wouldn't cost the earth. I see that instead of buying Fiona, I could easily - with the same amount of cash - have bought some hulk instead. A missed opportunity indeed. Why waste it on a luxury car, when I could have had a weatherbeaten old tub? You know, even as things now stand, I could sell my nice warm cosy well-appointed bungalow, buy a houseboat, and pop the difference in the bank.
Why on earth don't I do it?