I was so happy to see an article in Diena about houseboats that I actually took the trouble, with my dreadful Latvian, to read it all the way through. It was a pleasure to read that people in Latvia are interested in living on houseboats, and that others have seen the potential for a waterborne existence in this maritime territory. However, I was also dissapointed in both the author and the 'experts' she consulted for their concentration on only the top, and least interesting, part of the houseboat market.
The boats pictured in the article, and their level of connectivity to the shore is, in reality, only a very small proportion of the houseboats that are in existence across Europe, as this website, or this one, showing houseboats for sale will show, or this community portal for boat dwellers.
Instead I am sure there are a large number of people who are not interested in living in exclusive waterborne apartments just across the river from the Old Town. And I am sure that those same people are somewhat less concerned about government approval or recognition than the author of the article or the real estate moguls (and why would you ask real estate people anything about alternative lifestyles – their income is dependent on people spending ever more money attempting to move up the ‘housing ladder’ so what would they know about the aspirations of people with different priorities) who advised her. I lived on a sailing yacht for the last two years I spent in the UK. It was small, cramped, damp and inconvenient, especially when the tide was out and I had to drag a dinghy over glutinous black mud to get to the car and thence to work. It was also one of the happiest periods of my life. I lived in a beatiful place, swans woke me up in the mornings by tapping on the window and asking to share my breakfast and when the scenery palled (and I wasn’t working) I could sail away to the next creek and some new neighbours.
I had no official residential mooring – instead I found a mooring place that had some liveaboards and went to ask the owner if I could live on the boat there. “Unofficially,” he told me and went on to say that I needed to be registered elsewhere, but it would be fine. Everyone else in the yard was in the same boat. None of us were there because it was a status symbol, nor were any of us there out of necessity. Instead we had made a lifestyle choice (how pretentious that sounds, but I cannot find another way to describe it) and part of the attraction of that choice was living slightly outside normal expectations – and putting up with some inconveniences.
My wife and I have talked often about living on a boat here, and that article has strengthened my conviction that it would be a good thing to do – to become the first boat dwellers in Latvia (although I heard a rumour about a man building a houseboat in Jelgava, so perhaps not the first), but we would not be doing so on a prettified floating caravan for 3000 euros a square metre – instead we would choose a boat more like this (for sale at http://www.apolloduck.com/feature.phtml?id=67195)
A proud working boat with a strong steel hull at the end of her working life. With three decent sized cabins (rooms) and more storage space than the average 150 sq. metre Euro box in Marupe, she would make a fine family home.