Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The boat freaks: Tara, Du and Bee – aboard Love.



These laid back cruisers introduced me to the concept of boat time: a manana, manana, manana attitude, born of taking each bend as it comes, that puts boaters on their own clock entirely. Over two hours late for our meeting, they blamed ‘serendipitous meanderings’ when they did arrive. And who could argue with that?

When I met them, Tara, Du and Bee were making their home 200m south of the Lea Bridge in Clapton. As we sat in their impromptu, open-air, tow-path parlour room – odd furniture against a wall opposite their boat – we spent as much time talking to passers-by as we did talking about them.The trio were the nucleus of their stretch, and things seemed to be happening in the vicinity of their boat.

Tara and Du exuded the come easy, go easy attitude that is typical of the cruisers. And though they’recertainly rebellious, and show signs of staunch individuality, it’s as parts of their community that they thrive…

Boaters
Name: Tara, Du and Bee

Age: 26, 37, and 3 weeks and 3 days

Place of birth: Bath, Lewisham and the River Lea, aboard Love.

Occupation: Boating

Boat
Name: Love (previously, Gods Will. Then An FiachDuvh, meaning Raven of Prophecy in Gaelic)

Age: 41

Place of Birth: Whitchurch, North Wales

Length: 43ft

Top speed: Du: ‘What, our boat? Four and a half miles an hour? We just measure it roughly by if people are walking a lot faster than us.’

How did your journey aboard a boat begin?
Du: It belonged to an old preacher couple – hence God’s Will – and they eventually got too old at some stage, and too shaky in the hands. Well, this guy called Chris bought God’s Will before I managed to buy it. So I prayed to some sort of god type thing for a coupla minutes and then rang the women up and said, ‘here, you wouldn’t give me Chris’ phone number then, wouldja?’ And she was like, ‘he won’t like me, he won’t like me!’ -but she did.

So I rang him up, and I rang him up four times. But he let me say why we thought it was a good thing for usto have it, and how it fit into our dreams. And then he sold it onto us for the same price he bought it for. On top of buying us a meal, and picking us up from the train station, and showing us around the boat, then driving us back to the station. He was dead sound.Tons of luck.

That was Easter, three years ago.

Where did you live before the boat and how does it compare?
Tara: Before I lived on a boat, I was squatting, and I can pretty much live anywhere. But as far as boats are concerned, for sure, it’s a beautiful idea isn’t it, to live on a boat?

I used to have nightmares when I was a kid and so my dad told me stories, and asked me to pick subjects to build the story around. And one of my favourite stories to make me fallasleep was a story about living on a little green boat. With a little family and a dog. And the only thing that’s missing now is the dog.

Do you feel a strong connection with your boat?
Du:
It’s like having an extra body; you’ve got to know where’s all the creaky bits in this body. Some boaters do that and some boaters don’t.Most of the moored boats, they get mechanics to do all this stuff for them. They visit their boats, because their life is very busy. I guess that’s what the case is, because they’re not on their boats very often. But the continuously cruising boaters, like a cowboy and his horse, they’ve got to get to know it.

Is there a cruising type?
Du: He tends to get his cans and sits outside his boat drinking with his neighbours. It’s very old style with boaters. The habits are old style - the way of life, the slow pace of life. Your boat slows you down and makes you learn that you can’t race around at modern pace - it just doesn’t work.

And there is a definite sense of community, isn’t there?
[as I ask this question some people come up and they all start chatting about how they know each other, where they’ve been, and what’s going on with the continuous cruising laws. We move on but it’s fair to say: close knit.]

How is continuous cruising changing?
Du: British Waterways is a quango set up by the government – set up for nefarious purposes as far we can all see. Set up in the name of doing something good, which it doesn’t do. Now, next year it’s going to become a charity and then all the old policies are ended and there’ll be new policies.So we’re all supposed to move an awful lot more and pay a lot more if we don’t move fast enough, and all this bullshit, like.A licence is begging permission to do something that you can do anyway.

The tow-path is already a sociable place, but you’ve got your living room out here…

We don’t need no entertainment man, we don’t go anywhere for entertainment. We just sit out here and people stop and chat to us.

Last summer we moored up at a place where nobody usually moors, and we found a garden centre that was throwing away plants all the time - so we just kept bringing plants and planting them. And it had a very transformational effect on all the passers-by, all these people walking their dogs and cycling their bikes, strolling, and all the fishermen. And they’re all going, ‘what’s the story, have you got a mooring here?’ And we’d be, like, ‘nah’.

We stayed for three or four months. And a community formed around us – in this dead end stretch where people used to get raped in the darkness. So there’s a big point about the moorings of these continuous cruising boats: they make the waterways safe. And yet British Waterways isn’t protecting us - we need protecting from British Waterways…

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