Life & Culture

Joining the canal crew misfits has seen my ansgt float away

I live on a boat. I did not fall on hard times, I wanted to live on a boat.


I live on a boat. I did not fall on hard times, I wanted to live on a boat. There must be other Jews living on the UK's canal system. It's just that I haven't met one yet. I live on a 60ft canal boat - not a Dutch barge or a yacht. Yes, it has a roof, electricity, water and a toilet… but it's still a boat.

I spent my teen years being educated at a Christian school and quickly became familiar with the down-sides of being an outsider and the harshness of not belonging.

These days, however, I understand the up-sides too. As a child, I would have traded my Judaism for the ability to kick a ball in a straight line, but I wouldn't now. Over time, it's become more important. Boaters are a community of misfits. Sometimes, I feel like an outsider within a community of outsiders.

Perhaps, my early relationship with Judaism was my training ground for the lifestyle I lead now. The disconnect of my childhood instilled in me a deep yearning for acceptance from the non-Jewish world. Maybe that's still what I'm seeking as I float up and down the Regents Canal, working the locks and servicing my own engine. (There must be other Jews who can bleed fuel lines on a Perkins MC 42. It's just that I haven't met one yet.)

I do not moor in a marina. I am a continuous cruiser. I move every 14 days (except Jewish holidays) from one spot on the towpath to the next. I am transient.

Owning a boat has helped me to embrace my own flaws and be more open

Usually, I stay around London. The waterways are overcrowded so boaters tie up against other boats. If you've ever walked along the London towpaths and wondered why boats are tied together, sometimes three deep, it's because there isn't the space for every boat to have its own spot. So I decided to write a show about it. Every Tuesday, in London, I perform my new solo show - Angry Boater. Childhood taught me to be disconnected and controlling but the title also refers to the idea that boating is all about peace, tranquillity and the good life. It isn't - not most of the time.

As I've been developing the show, a narrative exploring my relationship with Judaism and the gentile world began to emerge. It was supposed to be a comedy show about why I live on a boat and what it's like but, unintentionally, the real story has become about these deeper Jewish issues of struggle and validation. Once I began to embrace my own flaws, quirks and particularities, life became more enjoyable for me. Since getting a boat, I have more close friends - my childhood distrust of others has been replaced with a much more open and embracing outlook.

That said, even though I've picked up a wide range of imperative (gentile-esque) boating skills, my nature is unchanged. I'm still Jewish, still angry, still an outsider but I no longer resent these things.

The show is going great. Afterwards, when I'm alone again, I take a bus down Kingsland Road to Brick Lane. My childhood introduced me to Brick Lane bagels, too. It definitely wasn't all bad.

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