Our 6ft Wide Home: The Mortgage Free Life of the Armagh Couple on a Lough Erne Houseboat
A young couple took the plunge with their first home after saving up to buy a classic instead of a traditional brick and mortar house.
ophie Durand (22) and Josh Boyd (23), both from Armagh, lead quiet lives on Lough Erne mortgage-free and hopefully leak-free.
They now call Lough Erne at Co Fermanagh their home after developing a passion for a slower lifestyle as students.
Their interest in the Little Life, a social movement in which people choose to reduce the space they live in, simplify, and live on less, led them to purchase their Qisma barge after graduating from college.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Sophie said; âWe met in high school and we were both interested in CGIs and special effects. We ended up attending the same university in Stoke-on-Trent. We’ve been together for almost seven years.
âStoke-on-Trent is very famous for its barges and we used to live by a canal. We hiked it every day for work and seeing the barges go by when you are on the bridge is a nice touch.
âA close friend of ours from America bought a really cheap boat to live on during his college days. We told him he was an idiot with frostbite, but we started to get curious and searched for videos of people living on it. It became our fascination for three or four years, âshe said.
Josh, who is from the Loughgall area, and Sophie, just outside Richhill, both work in marketing – Sophie works from home on their houseboat while Josh works locally.
They also have new side businesses – Sophie started Econabee with her mom, selling reusable, handmade eco-friendly products, and Josh started a beard care business called Cozy Beard, selling beard balms and oils.
In their free time, they are busy promoting their new lifestyle on the TikTok social media platform, where they have 5,000 followers.
Their work helped them raise the Â£ 53,000 they needed to buy the boat after spotting it on the Apollo Duck sailing website after a long search.
âWe saved money by working while in college, we made money through our respective businesses, and I also had a freelance job in marketing which helped me generate income during the foreclosure when companies were trying to adapt, âSophie said. “We used the money that we had saved when we were children and that we were going to use for a car or a house”
The couple have no mortgages and pay a mooring fee of Â£ 140 per month, including metered electricity.
âWhen we are sailing we are off the grid so we use our diesel engine which also heats up and provides electricity to the boat when we are not properly moored. If you want to take a walk, you can do it for free as long as you don’t stay in a public space for more than 48 hours. â
While they are permanently moored for their first year of owning a classic, Sophie said they look forward to exploring more once they get a little more comfortable.
âWe would love to go down to the Shannon and travel other Ireland waterways,â she said.
They have now lived on Qisma, an Arabic word meaning fate or fate, for almost two months. However, Sophie warned that the celebrity lifestyle is not for everyone.
âThe ecological part, being sustainable, was important to us, just like the little life. When Covid hit we had to pack all our belongings in a car and we managed to put everything away and it wasn’t even full. I haven’t bought clothes firsthand for three years – it’s our way of life, we just don’t want to consume, âshe said.
âWith barge life, you really have to think about what you are putting in the environment. Our wastewater is in the environment, so we do not use bleach. Waterways Ireland wants to encourage people to keep the water clean and your average anti-bin is harmful. We don’t use dish soap to wash the dishes, we use bar soap.
âTo live on a great classic, you also have to think seriously about space,â adds Sophie. âIf you were to walk on Qisma, you would find that it is very small, only 6 feet wide but 60 feet long, so the space is distributed differently. Lots of people like to hoard and have big garages or gardens, but on a classic you can’t do that.
Despite concerns voiced by others about the cold months ahead, Sophie said she and Josh weren’t worried about winter after testing one of their dry heat sources. âWe just heated the wood stove for the first time and it was so cozy but also hot – the great classic heats up so fast. Once we did that I realized the winter wouldn’t be that bad with our central heating, âshe said.
You can follow the couple on @cruisingqisma