After battling the notorious Amsterdam housing market for months, despairingly feeling like we were never going to find a place to live, I was eventually put in touch with a landlord whose tenant had just moved out.
So desperate that I would’ve willingly settled for a gazebo in Vondelpark, I couldn’t believe our luck when he showed us around his houseboat.
Now, picture the next few months of idyllic canal life: a boat passes you by filled with jovial Amsterdammers eating olives on cocktail sticks and sipping prosecco.
The native city wildlife surrounds you and, just like in a fairy tale, a band of squirrels sweeps the deck, as a heron obligingly does the washing up. An expedition of stoned tourists on pedalos crashes apologetically into your boat with a look of regret.
Whilst these are all notable and welcome features, what I love most about a houseboat life are the questions that people ask about it — so here are the answers to some of the gems I’ve collected. 👇
1. Where does your poep go?
Ah yes, the burning question. Do you have to pump out your own poo? Or does a person come and do it for you? Does it just go straight in the canal? Or does it get stored inside the boat?
No, my dear friends, this isn’t Kevin Costner’s Waterworld as we are connected to mainland Europe via a sewage pipe. 💩
Although, I prefer to let people envisage me heaving a putrid bucket of faeces through the boat, over the drawbridge, and tipping it into the street like a medieval chambermaid.
2. Do you get internet on a houseboat?
Yes, but it’s dial-up. I’m joking, of course. The gap between the boat and the land is about a metre — if the conceptual being that is the internet can cross the Atlantic, you would have thought it could just about reach us on our canal boat. 🕸
3. Can you just drive to England?
Surprisingly enough, it has been done before! Pensioners Terry and Monica Darlington and their dog, Jim, successfully crossed the English Channel in their canal boat named Phyllis May in 2004.
This quote from Terry summarises the mild peril they experienced on the voyage: “The dog [Jim], who was on tranquillisers, howled like a drunk.” 🧭
4. Do you get seasick?
The majority of the time, movement-wise, I forget entirely that I’m on a boat. However, occasionally some reckless hooligan comes hurtling down the canal, breaking the speed limit which sends all houseboats into a frenzy.
I once woke up with an aggressive start and thought my world was crumbling down as I rocked like a baby in a 30 ft cradle, with possessions falling to the ground all around me. ⚓
5. Will you be friends with all your boaty neighbours?
Sometimes, people immediately assume you are part of some quirky little club. Having said that, though, I would love to make friends with my boat neighbours and be able to hop over the stern to borrow a cup of sugar.
Unfortunately, however, houseboats are by nature are quite long. The neighbour’s front door may be as far as 100 m away, so I have a higher chance of bumping into my land-dwelling neighbours.
But sure, I can check with my little houseboat club whether or not we water-dwellers are allowed to mingle with land-dwellers. 👀
Do you have any other burning questions about living on a houseboat? Let us know in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in December 2015, and was fully updated in May 2022 for your reading pleasure.