By Freya Coombes

THIS COUPLE save £1,070 a month by giving up ‘escaping the rent trap’ of a house and choosing to refit and live fulltime in a 58-foot foot long canal boat instead.

Teaching assistant Millie Issacs (27), emergency service worker Dale Issacs (27) and Yorkshire terrier Ralph have picked up their life and moved onto a canal boat in Hertfordshire.

In October 2019, Millie and Dale bought Solstice, a 58-foot narrow boat. The boat was a shell when they purchased it for £30K with minimal electricity, no gas and no running water.

Dale cleaning the boat.

The couple renovated the boat in eight weeks, turning the boat from an uninhabitable shell to a comfy home for only £10k. Through this, they have added an extra £20K in value to the Solstice. They moved into the boat on December 21st 2019.

Renovating the boat themselves, Millie and Dale have made the boat their own, bringing DIY and budgeting skills to the Solstice.

There are some significant benefits to living on a canal boat, namely cost. The couple used to spend approximately £1,800 on rent and bills when living in a how. Now their expenses are just £730, saving them £1,070 a month.

However, with added cost benefits comes some downsides. One issue is space. Only 58 feet long and six foot ten inches wide, there is limited room for the two and Ralph the dog. Making the most of every nook and cranny, Mille and Dale have found that vacuum bags are the solution, preventing moisture buildup.

Another disadvantage is the weather. Rain affects rising and falling water levels, presenting it’s own problems in terms of maintaining the boat.

Millie and Dale also have to be on the look out for reckless drivers crashing into their boat as new boaters or holiday makers can cause a nuisance.

“We have been together for 12 years and moved out of our family homes when we were 18 into rented property, which wasn’t easy at the time,” said Millie.

Millie and Dale renovated the Solstice themselves from scratch.

“We purchased Solstice, our 58’ Narrowboat, in 2019 as a shell.

“It came with basic electrics fitted, and not much else.

“We have renovated our boat to suit us and have enjoyed the challenges this brought. Try using a level on a boat.”

Ralph the Yorkshire Terrier also loves the boat, enjoying the ride along the river.

“Ralph has only fallen into the water once,” said Dale.

“We feel much closer to nature in terms of the seasons noticing changes in the weather that we never noticed living in a house, such as how loud the rain really is, how strong the wind can be when it’s jostling our boat about.

“Wildlife along the canal never ceases to amaze us, we have seen badgers, foxes, hedgehogs as well as so many different types of birds including Herons, Blue Jay, a green European woodpecker and a local owl that we hear every night.”

Millie and Dale reveal the reality behind living in a boat full time, sharing all the hidden disadvantages.

Millie, Dale and Ralph.

“Storage is something you have to get used to. When we were moving from a house onto the boat Millie packed everything with the rule of “if it doesn’t all fit in the living room it is not going to fit in the boat”,” said Dale.

“Storage can be a bit of a problem; we have found if you try to store too much then moisture can build up and become a problem. Vacuum bags are a boater’s best friend.

“Every non-boater’s first question is “Is it cold in the winter?” but it is far from cold. However, the multifuel stove means the living room is normally a toastie 28 degrees.

“In the summer the boat is always warm, as our mooring is a lovely sunspot that sees the sun all day and well into the evening.

“The weather can be a problem. Too much rain and the water level will rise, meaning you have to loosen the ropes, which is easily done but sometimes it rains, and you are out all day. Not enough rain and the water level falls, potentially sitting the hull of the boat on the canal bed. Thankfully this hasn’t happened to us, yet.

“Other boaters crashing into you can obviously be a problem, it can cause damage to your boat as well as theirs, the main reasons this happens is inexperience, people going too fast, and not realising that slowing down takes a lot longer than speeding up. Its not really a problem just a bit of a nuisance.

“Hosting can be a bit cosy in the winter with not much room inside, however in the summer hosting is great fun, sitting on the roof is Millie’s favourite spot.”

Despite this, there are some significant benefits for the young couple.

“The biggest benefit for us is savings on cost-of-living vs if we were in a house, owning a boat is much cheaper than renting a property. The bills are cheaper, and you are not stuck paying someone else’s mortgage,” the couple said.

“We are able to save approx. £700 more than when we were renting, our disposable income has benefitted greatly also. Our bills are cheaper. It has meant we can afford things that we could never have afforded in the past.

“Boaters do have added expenses, including blacking the hull of the boat every 2 -3 years. We also have to pay a licence fee to have our boat on the canal, but this can be paid monthly which makes it more manageable. For permanent moorings, there is still council tax however it’s usually the lowest band.

“Since living aboard, we have found ourselves more mindful of waste, and being eco-friendly, compared to in our rented accommodation where the bins were collected routinely, it opened our eyes to how wasteful we were previously.

“For many people our age it is nearly impossible to afford a mortgage, due to the deposit. But if you have an open mind and you’re willing to try something that isn’t necessarily ‘mainstream’ you never know where you might end up. We never thought we would own a narrow boat, let alone love it as much as we do.”

To follow their story and continued renovation visit @onboardsolstice.