From North to South

For the last 6 weeks or so, I’ve had a chance to test live-aboard life for a longer time than just a short holiday. Even better, not only do I live on a boat, but we’ve been using it for what it’s meant to do: move about! Amazingly, not many lived-on boats travel: most tend to fulfill a role of floating flat.
This opportunity came about as I flew to Ireland to stay with Ted, my partner since January, on his boat. I had only come over for the usual two weeks, commuting back and forth between Ted’s barge and the Wirral, and had not brought much stuff – no laptop, no camera battery charger, and only thin summer trousers that threatened to rip any second. The plan was to join Ted on the first part of a leisurely journey back from Northern Ireland, to the barge’s winter quarter on the Grand Canal.
After a short portion of the trip and the initial two weeks were over, it seemed a real shame to leave and miss out on the best part of journey, so after much deliberation, I stayed on!

We first set off from Lower Lough Erne in good company: self-designated ‘Misfit Mariners’ Eric, Jill, Giles and Ted, and dogs Oíche (=Ee-ha) and Hobbes (=Hobz!), had already traveled together for several weeks over the summer, sharing meals and water-borne adventures. I’d heard all about it while I was working, and couldn’t wait to join them.
Eric lives aboard the tjalk Nieuwe Zorgen with Oíche, and Jill and Giles aboard Dutch barge Hawthorn with Hobbes. We live on the smaller widebeam barge Heron. Ted’s motorbike, a Transalp 650, was of the journey too, either on our boat or on Eric’s. It only just fits on the Heron’s rear deck, as it is a long as the boat is wide.
Together the boats looked a great sight, and to be honest, a somewhat curious spectacle next to the plastic hire cruisers that patrol these waters.

I liked traveling with the Misfit Mariners. We sailed from harbour to jetty, stayed here and there and just…. lived! A live-aboard life. Jill and Giles run a business from their barge, making boat covers, and sometimes that was the reason to stay somewhere. One of these stays was Swan Island on Lough Garadice.

At first, after India and Asia, this journey seemed a bit dull to share – even though I was enjoying it very much! It took a while to dawn on me that we were actually doing quite unusual things, all in subtlety.
Watching the kind of pictures Ted took opened my eyes. The camera had to be turned around and pointed at ourselves, not at the landscape and people I saw. Rather than functioning like a witness to extraordinary surroundings and unfamiliar people living their lives, I was the slightly unusual object, living in more familiar (by European standards), but still extraordinary surroundings. By the time I realised that, my camera batteries were dead. So I borrowed Ted’s camera now and then, and in part 2, I even borrowed one or two of his photos…. But here’s the journey:

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