Sometimes it feels that living on a boat is nothing more than a daily battle against the element of water. Water on the outside of the boat is life and prosperity, water on the inside of the boat is disastrous, whether in the form of leaks, burst pipes or worst of all, condensation.
Condensation (and by that I do not mean of the courtly kind), is the internal enemy of boat life; the anti-revolutionary. It slowly strangles the life of a boat until it is unendurable to live there anymore because of dampness, fungi, and wetness. It is easy to ignore until this slippery salamander of a foe has snuck into your wardrobes and drawers, onto your carpets and into your pillows, infusing every porous surface with a fine and unmistakeable covering of mould.
How does it come about? Nothing has made me hark back to the GCSE classroom as much as this irresolvable dilemma of condensation and its effects of mould and dampness. It is the by-product of life, of breathing. It is the by-product of heat. Both essential in the winter! The kettle excretes it when it boils and whistles, the fire emanates it with its steady glow, our breaths when we kiss and talk. It is, in a word, inescapable.
What is to be done with this ‘inside rain’ as Gideon calls it? Every morning I wipe down our windows with a cloth or a rag, trying to remove as many beads of condensation as possible. It should probably be done twice a day. Apparently there is a sort of film which you can apply to windows, that helps reduce it, and of course double-glazing helps hugely. The main problem is the disparity in temperature between the inside and outside; that’s what causes the water to form on the windows and sills, and drop down onto the floor or cling to our ceilings and doors.
Boat life is not a static life, you must buzz with energy and a will to overcome (if you do not have a perfect boat, which I am beginning to think does not exist in any case), the threat of obsolescence or integration with the elements of the outside world. You must fight the winds which rock you, the rain which lashes at your windows, the leaves which fall upon your roof. But then again, if you ‘fight’, you will never win. It is only the kind of person that takes pleasure in these daily activities who survives the stern test of the water. Your spirits must be buoyant and not bitter; your heart must be strong and not weak. Others’ pain must be your pleasure. Apathy leads to squalid and unhappy boats with wretched owners.
So the grinding, war of attrition against the water continues…