What’s it like to live on a narrowboat?

Find out on a meditative eco-break aboard our narrowboat, Spirited Away, as described by Vegetarian Living magazine in their February 2014 edition.

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Living on Britain’s inland waterways is an increasingly popular pursuit thanks to the freedom and sustainable lifestyle it offers, as two dedicated narrowboaters set out to share the experience with everyone.


company Float by Boat delivers a unique escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life along the beautiful canals of rural Warwickshire, teaming up the peace and pace of narrowboating with meditation, sustainable living and hearty, home-cooked vegetarian food. ‘We set up Float by Boat as a way of living simply, peacefully and gently. Inviting others to come and share it with us is something we both love,’ says Victoria ‘Tor’ Johnson.

Tor, together with Kev Argent – who met over mutual interests in spirituality, narrowboats and heavy metal music while working for the same coach and bus company – run  a programme of weekend breaks from March to October aboard their 69-foot narrowboat, lovingly named Spirited Away.

‘Kev had been living on a narrowboat for a couple of years and that’s how we first got talking,’ says Tor. ‘I knew I wanted to leave the corporate world and live in a more retreat-like way, and was also looking to buy my  own narrowboat to live on.

‘While we were travelling together in Nepal, I woke up one morning having decided to combine all my  aspirations and run  meditation holidays from a narrowboat. Within a month I’d written a business plan and secured a loan.’

Reflection and food

The boat can be chartered for a day trip or meal afloat, a weekend cruise or waterways holiday, and sleeps six people and the crew across three cabins, with two toilet and shower rooms. Tor is the host and cook, while Kev skippers and maintains Spirited Away, which cruises at a top speed of 3 mph. The couple also take care of all chores, leaving guests to learn boat-handling skills or simply relax and enjoy the countryside.

A lot of time and thought goes into the meals that Tor prepares, as everything is made from fresh ingredients which are locally sourced – and foraged at every opportunity – when possible. ‘Freshly baked breads and cakes, made most days, are favourites with guests,’ says Tor. ‘The main meals take their inspiration from around the globe, using fresh herbs grown on the roof and rich spices. I want the food to taste great and also be nourishing, so my  favourite dishes are often things that taste naughty but are made up of wholesome, balanced ingredients.’

Of course, other dietary preferences are also catered for: ‘I’m getting particularly good at vegan, dairy-free, wheat-free and sugar-free recipes.’

A greener life

The narrowboat life is much closer to being off-grid than land dwelling, which is why it appeals to many people with strong interests in environmental and energy conservation, as Tor explains: ‘By it’s very nature, you need all of the necessary fuel and resources on board the boat. Electricity and hot water are a bi- product of chugging along the canals, and any extra power needed comes from two solar panels on the roof.

‘The boat is heated with waste wood donated by friends, family and contacts. All waste has to be carried off the boat by hand – or in the case of the toilet pumped. In short, it feels like this way of life is much closer to the resources humans rely on every day. We can’t just flick a switch or press a button; we’re connected to the process itself. This means that we’re much more aware of what is being used and where it comes from.’

A typical two-night getaway is £150 per person, with fully catered food, plentiful tea and cake, local collections from bus, train or car park, optional meditation sessions and canal cruising.

After a successful year, Tor sees a lot of potential for development: ‘At the moment we’re looking for experts to work with us in providing special trips for nature conservation, foraging, writing, crafts, photography, yoga, hiking, holistic practices, bird watching, star gazing and other pursuits that lend themselves to the Float by Boat atmosphere.

‘It’s all step-by-step, but eventually we’d love to use it for community and social projects too. It’d be great to offer the space to people who would really benefit from slowing down and getting closer to nature. There’s something very restorative and healing about the waterways.’

For more details on Float by Boat canal breaks, visit www.floatbyboat.co.uk.

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Published in the February 2014 edition of Vegetarian Living magazine, pages 70-71.