Many people dream of getting away from the rat race and leading a ‘greener’ life, but only a handful take that final step.
One such couple is Sophie Durand (22) and Josh Boyd (23), who have bought a narrowboat rather than go down the traditional mortgage route.
Josh, who is from the Loughgall area, and Sophie, from just outside Richhill, have recently set up home on Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh after taking the plunge and buying the boat.
The pair, who met at Portadown College and have been together for seven years, began to seriously consider barge living while they were at university in Staffordshire.
Said Sophie: “Stoke-on-Trent is famous for its narrowboats, and we lived really close to the canal. We just fell in love with the idea of small, sustainable living and also slow living.”
Having returned home after graduating, the prospect of finding a barge seemed remote, so when they saw an advert for ‘Qisma’ (Arabic for fate or destiny), they didn’t hesitate.
Said Sophie: “We wanted to adopt a more slow way of living. As the narrowboat is on the inland waterways, we get to literally take our home wherever we want to go, weather permitting of course.
“What’s great about living on a boat also is that you open your curtains every morning to the beautiful surrounding nature. It’s a slow, sustainable and also happier way of living, well at least for us it is!”
Living on a boat is not without its challenges, however.
“Resource management can be an issue,” said Sophie. “Our water, gas, toilet and fuel all need to be regularly maintained. As we have to refill resources often, we become more aware about how much we consume and use each day.
“Space is another challenge. As we downsized, we had to make the best use of space we could by reducing the amount of luxuries we had.
“Our wardrobe is small, our kitchen is small. You have to really adapt to that. Small living isn’t for everybody.”
The couple pay £140 a month for the permanent mooring, which includes water, communal and parking facilities.
They also pay for metered electricity on top of that, or else run the engine to charge batteries.
“When we had originally looked for boats in England at uni, mooring fees cost on average £3,000 a year. You could find yourself paying upwards from £7,000 a year around big cities,” added Sophie.
The boat itself cost £53,000, with the couple pooling their savings and earnings to buy it.
Sophie works in marketing for a software company remotely from the boat and Josh is a social media marketing coordinator for a local food company.
Both also started small businesses over lockdown. Sophie, along with her mum, founded Econabee, selling reusable, handmade eco products, while Josh set up a beard care business called Cosy Beard, selling beard balms and oils.
Added Sophie: “We are also very fortunate to have found Qisma at such a great price as the previous owners had an offer for £75K from a boat brokerage in England but due to complications from Brexit couldn’t ship it over without being taxed.”
Sophie and Josh’s unusual lifestyle choice has drawn a mixed reaction from family and friends.
“Some people say we are mad and that we will regret it come winter or a few years down the line,” said Sophie.
“However, our family have been very supportive with our new venture. They’ve heard about our dream of owning a narrowboat for quite some time and are glad we finally get the chance to do it in our home country.
“Since starting social media for Qisma, we have already received lots of support and encouragement from fellow boaters, locals and the general public.”
You can follow the couple at @cruisingqisma.