waves Maki ng at home
Couples turn to life on the open water
ICTORIA, B.C. — Living on board a boat is the essence of living a simpler life. For some, it’s a chance to escape suburbia while still living next to the city. For others, it’s an opportunity to realize a lifelong dream of travel and adventure, to live by wind and wits.
It starts with leaving behind items collected over the years to live in a space the size of a large walk-in closet. There’s a big difference between people who live on float homes, which can be the size of a regular house, and live-aboards on a boat. A seven-to nine-metre-long sailboat is considered spacious for one person, and a couple would likely be found cohabiting on a 11-to 14-metre power or sailboat.
It’s a lifestyle change, for sure, says Janice Hayward, who lives aboard Ta Daa, a 15-metre sailboat with her husband, Ron Harris, and Winston, their four-legged friend. “It’s not for everyone, but we both had a dream and a goal in mind.”
Part of that dream was to sail as much as they can. The couple takes to the water almost every other weekend, and more in the summer.
Unlike float homes, which are flatbottomed and not meant for open water, sailboats allow their occupants to take their home with them as they travel.
It’s like luxury camping, says Lynn Macfarlane. She and her husband, Doug, had tested the waters for three years before finally buying their first boat, a 12-metre Beneteau they have named Miramar. The boat is like a mobile motel room, transporting you to where you want to go.
Doug has just retired and Lynn follows in June. The couple is in the pro-
Vcess of making their boat their only home. Their 2,000-square-foot house is for sale, their children the recipients of most of the furniture. They will store some treasured items and will host a gigantic garage sale for the rest. They plan to head south, then see where the wind takes them. While they will leave their Victoria home, they will always be in good company as they travel, since a live-aboard community exists in almost every port. Consisting of a cross-section of society, with couples with young children, working professionals and retirees, liveaboards can be found in marinas that allow long-term moorage.
“It’s more of a community than any other community we have lived in,” says Hayward. Despite their close quarters, she says there’s as much privacy as one would find in a regular neighbourhood. Her neighbours agree. “We look out for each other, keeping an eye on things, says Beverly Smith, who lives aboard an 11-metre trawler with her husband. After all, we’re all in the same boat.”
She has been a living aboard her power boat since 1996 and the only thing she misses these days would be a bit more space for her craftwork. Compact spaces means less closet space for clothing, smaller fridges mean buying less perishable food — the list goes on. Done right, downsizing can be liberating. Most live-aboards see this as an opportunity (and challenge) to reduce their worldly possessions to just the bare essentials.
“It gave me an opportunity to pare down,” says Smith, who just turned 65. “I got rid of a lot of stuff and I don’t miss it much.”
Owners of power boats, such as Smith’s, have more living space compared with sailboats. They are wider and sit higher up on the water, towering over their wind-powered cousins.
Amenities to make living aboard a boat while docked more comfortable usually include 30-amp electric power, water, telephone, cable TV, Wi-Fi Internet and a sewer pump at every slip. Boats might have a shower, but marinas offer shore-based washrooms, showers and laundromats, plus parking space.
The shore-based AC electrical system can charge a boat’s DC battery. The 30 amps of power is usually enough to power a microwave, toaster, coffee maker or electric heater — but not necessarily all at the same time. Boaters become adept at unplugging one appliance before plugging in another to prevent overloading the circuit breaker.
Most boat owners, at least in Victoria, live on board year-round. In the winter, they use oil-or propane-burning space heaters, supplemented by electric heaters.
But using diesel, propane or solid fuel to heat requires attention to ensure exhaust and fresh-air vents are frostfree and unobstructed. It’s also a good idea to keep the galley hatch open when cooking with a propane stove. A smoke alarm, carbon-monoxide and propane detector are essential.
But not everyone is enamoured of spending the rest of his or her life on a boat. Some spouses only agree to it because it was a passion for their partners. It’s not uncommon for boaters to move back on land after a few years at sea, once they get the urge out of their system.
Yet some relationships are strengthened by the experience.
“It seems that being physically closer together has brought us closer together,” says Smith.
Beverly Smith lives aboard an 11-metre trawler with her husband.
Lynn in the dining room of the 12-metre Beneteau, which she likens to a mobile motel room, top. Bottom, the kitchen sink becomes a cutting board in the efficiently
designed galley of a boat.