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Maid of Gingerbread

Liveaboard baker Emily Garland reveals the benefits of having a small boat on London’s waterways

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Emily Garland started her baking business, Maid of Gingerbread, ten years ago, creating show-stopping edible centrepieces for all sorts of events, often featuring scaled-down London landmarks like the Waldorf Hotel.

As well as making tiny houses for a job, she also lives in one – a 32ft replica tug narrowboat called Reg, which she continuously cruises on the Lee Navigation and Regent’s Canal. “I’ve always loved tiny boats. Even before buying one I used to regularly walk the towpaths in London obsessing over the smallest craft I saw. They’re just so cute.”

Even after living on it for two years, the feature Emily says she loves most about Reg is its diminutive size. “On congested city waterways it’s the biggest luxury in the world. I can turn my boat around anywhere and fit into all the awkward gaps between other craft, so finding a mooring is never a problem. I don’t even have to nip in straightaway. I can carry on past, make sure there’s nothing better further along, and then just do a quick 180 and go back.”

The boat’s size, and the ease of handling without having to rely on other crew, also enable her to be completely autonomous. “To be fully in control of something feels amazing. I’m sure I could handle boats of 50ft-plus in length, but I don’t think it would be quite so enjoyable.” Also, the fact that her workspace is in Hackney, near the Hertford Union Junction, means that she’s always close.  

Of all the things on her boat, it’s the kitchen that Emily is most keen to change. “This sounds ridiculous, considering my career, but I haven’t dared bake anything aboard yet, apart from a couple of crumbles! It’s so hard to bake in a gas oven, plus there’s no real reason to since I’ve got a beautiful, commercial, electric oven at work, which I visit every day.”

Read the full feature in 'On the Cut' in February 2020 Waterways World