hannah pierce

featured author of the season - summer 2024

hannah pierce

Hannah Pierce trained as an actor before writing, producing and performing in theatre for young people and adults across the UK and abroad. She has worked a number of roles since, but a common thread of presenting live arts is always central to her career.

Alongside her “real job”, Hannah has written for the stage, and her one-woman show on the valiant adventures of an online dater received critical acclaim. All Boats Are Sinking, her first book, is a memoir of love, life and chaos on a narrowboat, perfect for fans of Dolly Alderton, Helen Fielding and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, which has been called "a vibrant, often hilarious emotional and physical journey” by Ian Moore, author of Death and Croissants and “heart-warming, hilarious and honest” by actress Michelle Dockery.

Hannah Pierce on board narrowboat

hardstanding in snow

After a break-up, some hit the gym; some cut their hair; others have a one-night stand. In the aftermath of her break-up, Hannah bought a narrowboat.

Finding herself newly single aged thirty she knew she needed a fresh start. Forced to move out of her boyfriend’s flat her options were limited: move back to her parents, live in a flat share or spend all of her disposable income on renting solo. Instead, in an attempt to claim some independence and a semblance of control in her life, she made the fateful decision to buy a boat…

Newly single and plunged into life on the water, we follow Hannah as she quickly learns to live with Argie Bargie, her 45-foot narrowboat. In this compelling account of her slightly chaotic but certainly never dull life aboard, we follow Hannah as she tries to hold down a hectic career and social life while learning to navigate the strange new world on the waterways of London. Getting to grips with the intricacies of boat life, including exploding toilets, disappearing hulls, and the curious glances and questions from pedestrians on the towpath, Hannah discovers how empowering living alone can be while also being surrounded by a brilliant group of friends. All this as she tries to balance the tension between owning her singledom and giving in to a deep desire to find love.

However, when a turbulent relationship with a senior colleague and the advent of the Covid pandemic coincide and threaten to sink her, Hannah feels the need to escape. Sniffing out an opportunity for adventure, and in a bid to let go of the past and find her true self, Hannah embarks on a 250-mile odyssey from the bustling streets of London to the tranquil yet dramatic waterways of West Yorkshire. The nature of travelling by boat means that progress isn’t the fastest, and so as well as navigating 357 locks, including some of those in the infamous Huddersfield Canal, Hannah trains for and competes in a socially distanced marathon, and embarks on adventures with old friends – and some surprising new ones (hello, Tyson Fury!).

Discovering the beauty of the different canals and waterways across England, and the ever-changing landscape, Hannah writes beautifully about the pull of the water and the calming nature of life so close to it. As winter approaches and she nears the end of her journey, Hannah allows the ups and downs of the last 4 years and her empowering journey north to really sink in and arrives in Todmorden for her winter mooring stronger and more confident in who she is than ever before.

Peppered with entertaining lists, recipes, maps, footnotes and diagrams, and spanning hundreds of miles of the British waterways, All Boats Are Sinking is an uplifting and often hilarious story of adventure and personal growth, and of a woman trying to keep her boat and life afloat. And to answer that perennial question: yes, it's cold on the boat in winter.

book - all boats are sinking

interior of a narrowboat

narrowboat cruising

Here is an extract to give you a flavour:

Becoming accustomed to my home was a joy. I’m a master at pottering and I took great care in unpacking and arranging my belongings, stopping to enjoy a cup of tea out on deck, or to reposition my chilli plants in order to receive the most light in the ever-changing position of the stern.15 Coming home to a new location after a long shift at work was something I looked forward to immensely, as I discovered new areas of London and their Tube and Overground stops. I would chuckle to myself at the brief ownership I felt over a new neighbourhood, even if it was only mine for a few days. I would spot other boaters on the trains, casual creatures amongst the hordes of city workers and nighttime revellers. They were instantly recognisable with their grubby fingernails, fantastic tans, worn boots, loose shirts and a cork keyring hanging from their frayed pockets.

I moved the boat a lot in those first few weeks; short moves, occasionally with friends and more often than not with Megan’s assistance. My aim initially was to head east, where I could enjoy the remaining summer months near my work and Megan’s boat. From Alperton in West London, I journeyed through Kensal Rise and Little Venice, delighting every time I managed to complete a move without incident, and filling up on water with a hose trailing from a tap on the towpath to the bow of my boat where the tank is stored. With Megan on board, we tackled the Maida Vale and Islington tunnels, cruised through London Zoo and Regent’s Park and scaled the trio of iconic locks at Camden flanked by footbridges and hundreds of tourists and sunshine seekers. We travelled through the trendy neighbourhoods of Haggerston and Broadway Market and I took mental notes of all the places I wanted to stop for longer next time I passed, whenever that might be.

I would stand at the tiller with my support bubble of friends, chatting about everything and anything. We’d start the cruises with tea and biscuits, and end with a barbecue and beers on the roof, bringing candles out to keep the mozzies away and wrapping up in blankets as the sun set on another beautiful day on the canal network of London. When my friends were gone, I closed up the doors to the world outside and embraced being alone inside the boat. I had become used to being in close proximity with towpath users. No longer self-conscious, I felt comfortably hidden within my home and enjoyed overhearing snippets of conversation from those who didn’t know I was so close.

I was forever repositioning my belongings. It had become clear that everything I owned would have to be on display and the careful placement of kitchen utensils and books, toiletries and tinned food was key to creating the boat’s warm ambience. There was no room for untidiness. I bought pot plants from Mare Street florists to fill every spare surface. My personality couldn’t hide on Argie, and I was enjoying discovering how both the boat and I were evolving in that regard.

Sleep had never been so peaceful. The evenings would turn in as the canal-side activity calmed. Boats stopped moving through, and the birdsong quietened. With limited electrical appliances at home to distract me, I was going to bed earlier and sleeping deeper. The boat’s movement rocked me into my slumber. It was humbling to wake up in bed, so close to the water and canal wildlife.

This was not only my first boat, but my first time living alone, and I was enjoying every minute of it.

Hannah PierceFollowing the publication of All Boats Are Sinking (Summersdale Publishers), Hannah looks forward to taking on her next writing project, and intends to find inspiration through her imminent foray into a little-known thing called “motherhood”. She now lives in South London with one foot still firmly rooted on Argie – moored somewhere in the UK.

Hannah's book is available from Summersdale Publishers as an e-book or in Paberback. It is also available on Amazon.