Click on the image to watch the short Documentary
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, Sinead, approached me and asked whether I would be in a short documentary about the housing crisis. She was in contact with a man named Dimitri who was coming to Ireland to do a short piece on the effect the housing crisis has on people here, specifically Millennials.
I agreed and about two days later Dimitri came by for about half an hour, maybe an hour, to the boat and conducted a short interview with me. We were actually really lucky because as he came down the pontoon, there was a dolphin in the river and it made for a lovely beginning to our afternoon.
Then we had a bit of a chat. I showed Dimitri around the boat (which took about 2.5 seconds), and then we sat outside and talked about the realities of the housing crisis. My friend Sinead has had to move back home with her parents, and I suppose the reality of the situation is my "house choice" was brought about due to the fact that I couldn't afford to rent a place on my own, and there wasn't actually many options in regards to renting. All I had been able to find was renting houses sharing with students, which I have done plenty of in the past, and I no longer wish to do at this stage of my life.
Many of you already know the story. In 2016 I herniated two discs in my back, and I spent the next two years bed-bound between surgery and recovery. Thankfully my parents put me up and cared for me during these years, and this was also the catalyst for the creation of the business Mad Jessie. After my recovery, I found it equally difficult to find an affordable place to live, or a job. I remember applying for a job a week at one stage and getting through to quite a few interviews, in some cases I was overqualified, in other cases the job had already been put aside for somebody else. It was mad to me that with a masters degree and a ton of experience I was finding it very difficult to find a job in my area, and as I searched for work and a place to live, I kept creating as it was the only thing that kept me sane.
2016 September - after 2 months bed bound here I am in hospital after a shot of morphine
Then one day over a glass of wine with a friend we laughed about the idea of me buying a boat to live on. We even spent some time on Daft looking up the tiniest boats and giggling about living on them. However the next day it didn't seem like such a mad idea at all, especially in a housing crisis where more and more of my friends were moving home to live with their parents in order to save for a house, or just because they couldn't afford to live on their own in their own space.
So I began to look for a boats and I also started doing a business course with Skillnet here in Waterford as something to keep me occupied while I was looking for work. However soon it came to a point in the business course where I had to make a decision, was I “all in” on my business idea or not? I decided to go all in, and Mad Jessie was born and registered. I also kept looking for a boat.
Now it would've probably made more sense to get a houseboat. However houseboats are much more expensive than sailboats, and I am lucky enough that I know how to manage a sailboat. The other problem is a barge can be difficult to source in Ireland, as a lot of them come over from Europe and the UK and need to be brought over in containers which adds to the cost. The third issue I quickly learned about is that there are only 28 permanent births (as far as I know) in Ireland. This means there are only 28 permanent places you can park your barge otherwise you need to move it every couple of days along Irish waterways.
You can read more about the joys of houseboat living HERE
And some of the difficulties too HERE
In the end I decided to purchase a sailboat for two main reasons. 1. I know how to sail and I know how to manage a sailboat, and 2. it was a lot cheaper than buying a house boat so it was more accessible to me.
I finally found my boat in a boat yard in Scotland, she had been abandoned for quite a few years and had at some stage been standing full of stagnant water for quite awhile, so honestly she was very much a do-er upper. But she was in my budget, and her hull was sound, and I went for it. I have family in Glasgow so I was able to stay there while I drove an hour and a half to work on the boat when I could, and when she was ready we were able to sail her over to Ireland (although it was very just really!). And then once I had her in Ireland I stripped out the entire insides, I found multiple, no, tens and tens of leaks on the top side of the hull that I fixed, and I spent probably another two years working on her day in and day out.
I have now been living on my boat for over three years. It is like glamping. I have a small triangular size bed which is about 10 cm wide on one end and 2 m on the other. I have a little camping gas stove with one ring and no oven. I've chosen not to have a fridge and it's pretty basic. Yes I do have a heater for winter it's a small fan electric heater that I plug-in. I can also heat the boat very well by just boiling the kettle, as I insulated it incredibly well. Some of it is still in process, I still haven't really put any proper kitchen in yet, and I have yet to install my water tank, but it works for now. My future plans are to redo the electrics as I haven't done them yet (everything runs on batteries or shore power at the moment), and I would like to install some solar panels and a wind-vane to be able to generate my own electricity. It's a really nice way of life, but sometimes I do think, wow I'd love an electric shower. Or to have enough space to swing a cat, which is probably why I don't have a cat. My dog does love live aboard life and we like to focus on the positive, like being able to see seals and dolphins and otters from my home, and the daily sunrises over the river in the winter time.
So it's a funny one, I love my life as a live-aboard, but I do realise that my boat, my home, probably cost less than someones suit that they're wearing in the Dail. And I do wonder sometimes about how this country is being run in regards to the housing crisis, the amount of people I know who can't get housing, who can't afford to rent, let alone own their own houses. There are a lot of people in their 30s who are very hopeless, who are living in very difficult situations, and I really don't see a way out of this. And I truly believe that the people running the country and in the government honestly haven't got a clue, and really do not understand what is happening in the country. Because otherwise I don't know how they could get up in the morning.
I think of myself as being incredibly privileged to have been able to create my own space in the country during a time where all of our spaces are being taken from us. I love my lifestyle and I love my boat, but it is interesting as it was less of a choice, it was the only option I could think of. And that’s not really fair on everyone else out there who doesn’t have these options, or the support of their families or friends. It is very very easy to become homeless in this country, and I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that there are people with lots of income and access to silly amounts of money who can do what they want with minimal repercussions, and then there are the rest of us, scrimping and not able to save and trying our best.