I am taking an early morning stroll along a picturesque Mediterranean harbour, just as the sun is rising. There are rows of gleaming yachts and colourful quayside restaurants are leisurely setting up as another day begins. I enjoy hearing the gentle sound of waves and the constant ticking of stays against the masts in the warming breeze. What would it be like to be part of this nautical world, to sleep onboard those yachts and wake up to this every morning?
Visiting London recently I had the same feeling about wanting to be part of canal life sleeping on one of the quirky narrow boats dotted along the canals. So much more fun than staying in a hotel.
It’s unlikely I will ever get the chance to own a luxury yacht, winning the lottery aside, its not part of my retirement plan. So, after reading that the secret of happiness is to spend money on experiences and not things, I thought I would find out more about life on the water.
Apparently, others have had the same thought and a new concept “Beds on Board” has emerged, a website bringing boat owners and bed seekers together.
My first experience is to stay on a narrow boat in the heart of London and see the familiar city, from a different perspective. “Velvet Morning”, a 57-foot canal boat built over 100 years ago, is tucked away in Little Venice on the Grand Union Canal. Here, the canal runs below the level of the traffic where it is easy to forget you are still close to the bustling city.
I see “Velvet Morning” as the last of the evening sun dips though the trees. As I reverse carefully down the ladder the boat gentle rocks and there’s a lovely cottage feel. I can hear the unfamiliar sounds of lapping water, honking geese and a boat chugging rhythmically by. The prospect of morning on the river, a wood burner to keep me warm and climbing into the cabin at night strikes me as pure bliss.
I need, however, to be prepared for the quirks of staying aboard (e.g. cassette toilet, limited power for appliances such as hair dryer) but that’s what adds to the experience. You have to be fairly spritely to get on board and into the built up double bed.
At first light, the city slowly wakes and so do I to sounds of quacking ducks, chatting joggers and the distant traffic hum. After a galley breakfast I join in the canal activity and follow the river (on foot) through Regent’s Park past the zoo to Camden.
It’s certainly a totally new experience, it’s fun, it’s different, and it’s not as pricey as you might think, compared to London Hotels. What a great way to make those lasting memories. Many of the boats on offer are dog friendly which gives me a thought for the future.
My mind is now set on trying a yacht in Palma, Majorca. With its warm waters and azure skies, a perfect place to escape and soak up some sunshine – anyone what to join me in a sundowner?
By Rowena Cooper